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Corrective Movement (Syria)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Corrective Movement
Part of the Arab Cold War and the prelude to the Syrian Civil War
General Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000), the new president of Syria in November 1970.png

Hafez al-Assad shortly after the success of the movement
Date13 November 1970
  • Overthrow of Salah Jadid and his allies
  • Appointment of a Temporary Regional Command of the Ba'ath Syrian Regional Branch
Syria Syrian Government
Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
Hafez al-Assad loyalists
Commanders and leaders
Salah Jadid (POW)
Nureddin al-Atassi
Hafez al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad
Mustafa Tlass
Casualties and losses
No mortal casualties

The Corrective Movement (Arabic: الحركة التصحيحيةal-Ḥaraka at-Taṣ'ḥīḥiya), also referred to as the Corrective Revolution or Glorious Corrective Movement, was a political movement in Syria, initiated by a coup d'état, led by General Hafez al-Assad on 13 November 1970.[1] Al-Assad's program of reform, considered revolutionary in Syria, aimed to sustain and improve the "nationalist socialist line" of the state and the Ba'ath party.[2] Al-Assad would rule Syria until his death in 2000, after which he was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad.

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  • ✪ Open Office Hours: Joel Beinin
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[MUSIC] >> Stanford University. [MUSIC] >> Hello, welcome to open office hours. My name is Joel Beinin, and I'm Donald J.N. MacLachlan professor of history, and professor of Middle East history at Stanford University. I'm going to talk today about a very broad range of things that are going on in the Middle East Egypt, Syria, and a lot of related issues. Things are both, all connected together, but also quite different in different places, and that's one of the difficulties of understanding the region. Let me start by saying something about how policy makers in Washington are looking at the overall situation. Which hasn't changed very much since the beginning of the popular uprisings against the Tunisian former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Egyptian former president Hosni Mubarak. From their point of view what they see, is a Shia alignment led by Iran Hezbollah is an important component, and the government of Syria which isn't really Shia because the outside family are Alawites. But more recently the Shia, ayatollahs have taken to say that, well, yeah, they're really Shia. So, that's an alignment which seeks to, as people in Washington see it, destabilize the region because they are unhappy with the status quo. And on the other side you have a Sunni alignment. Which is led by Saudi Arabia. Sometimes, together with the other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and so on. Sometimes the Saudis have differences with them. Before 2011, very importantly, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Israel, which, of course, isn't a Sunni state but is, effectively, an, an important component of the status quo elements in the region. For the point of view of the United States, the most important asset in the region is Saudi Arabia, and it's oil. And the second most important asset is Israel, which is watchdog on the beat, helping the United States protect western access to oil at reasonable prices. So I've described how the region looks from Washington. That is not at all how the region looks to people who live there, and that's the biggest difficulty for Americans to understand. So let's start with a simple question which comes from M.K. who writes, what's the reason or where is the benefit for a strike on Syria? I count myself among probably at this point the majority of Americans and a significant number of people in Congress who oppose a strike on Syria, so I don't think there's any benefit to it whatsoever. But how are people thinking about this? There is, of course, an international convention against the use of chemical weapons. Which Syria, by the way, has not signed. So it's not officially obligated to uphold that convention. And it would normally be up to the United Nations security council to enforce that convention. United Nations security council can't enforce that convention because the Russians will veto any resolution, that imposes serious sanctions on Syria. The Chinese might also vote against it. So the Syrian, the Security Council is not a factor. That raises a big problem, because according to the United Nations Charter there are only two situations which justify the use of force. One is immediate self-defense. You're attacked, you can fight back without asking the United Nations for permission. Or secondly, the United Nations Security Council authorizes the use of force, which it's not going to do in the case of Syria. So, President Obama and the hawks in his administration have taken to say that, well then, the responsibility is on us. Okay, there is a certain argument for that. Somebody should stand up for decency. I mean, there's not much question that chemical weapons were used in Syria. There is still, I think, some question about who used them. And someone should enforce the prohibition against using these weapons because they are indeed very horrible. But the United States dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima. When Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran and that was brought up by Democrats in the Senate, the Republican majority crushed it, and we decided to ignore it. The United States used Agent Orange in Vietnam. The United States used White Phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq. Now, we might find American military point of view have good reasons for justifying all those things. People in the Middle East see that as total hypocrisy. So, if we are going to be the ones who teach Syria a lesson, as the president has been saying. It won't work very well, unless the lesson can be understood. And given the record of the United States in the region, the lesson won't be understood. It will be perceived as yet one more time when the United States acts hypocritically to defend its interests and those of Israel. And they are just killing Muslims as they have been doing for a decade or more and what's new? So, much as it might be highly desirable for the United States to be the one to even heroically enforce this norm. Most of the rest of the world, and especially the most relevant parts of the world, the Arab and Muslim world, won't accept this as a reasonable thing for the United States to have done. The majority of the British parliament doesn't accept this as a reasonable thing for the United States to do. Why? Because, Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, lied to the Parliament, at fixing the intelligence around the policy, as it was said, with regards to the dodgy dossier. and, now the present British government has to pay the price for the fact that Parliament was lied to. Why are so many American Congressmen and Senators nervous about endorsing the use of military force. For the same reason, the Bush administration lied to Congress and to the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there weren't any. And there was all sorts of quite silly intelligence that was put forward to try to justify this. Colin Powell who made what was thought to be an impressive speech to the United Nations in February, 2003, now has expressed some regret about doing that and his aide Colonel Wilkinson has even gone further than that. So, having made some very serious miscalculations we might be willing to forgive ourselves and say, okay, well, we, we've, we've learned our lesson. But the rest of the world is, I think quite understandably not going to be so for, forgiving. So we're going to have to pay a very heavy price for a very long time because of things that have been done in the past, and will prevent us from doing even desirable things in the future. So one of the explanations for what is going on with regard to the Obama administration's view of Syria. Is this really not about Syria at all. It's about Iran. And the real question is, does President Obama have guts to stick by his guns, if an when, Iran crosses what he's defined a red line, on the way to the acquisition of nuclear weapons? Because that, if it did happen, would be a much more serious threat to the security of The United States. Nothing that is actually going on in Syria right now does threaten immediately the security of The United States. Although it certainly destabilizing to the region and that could ultimately be a problem. So, for sure, one of the considerations. Not the only one, perhaps not even the most important one for the Obama administration. Certainly the most important consideration for Israel and for the Israel lobby is, we need to do this in order to show the world that we are serious about following through on the threats that have been made a, against Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has a new president who's repudiated all of the bombastic style and things that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said. There appears to be an opening for a negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue with Iran. That certainly won't be easy. Iran has, some very strong positions that it holds to. Most importantly, that it has the right, according to the anti-proliferation protocol to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. there, as long as there is no weapon program involved then Iran can go ahead and do this. And it's not going to cede its right, which of course Israel contests. And the United States is trying to maneuver between the much higher threshold that Israel has put. And the actual legal threshold, which doesn't prevent Iran from doing this. Okay, so Luis Gonzalo-Calendrez, Sr. asks, was the Egyptian military coup made in the USA? That's I think, a pretty easy question to answer with a no. But it's a little bit more complicated than that, as things tend to be. We need to understand, first and foremost, that the relationship of the United States with Egypt is with the Egyptian army. Even more so than with whoever was the president or the Prime Minister of Egypt. It's a very close personal relationship. Lots of Egyptian high ranking officers, including current Commander of the Armed Forces, Administer of Defense, CC, studied in the United States. Know personally high ranking American officers who are their counterparts. They've gone on vacation together, and so on. The entire Egyptian army hardware store at this point, is American aid, the $1.3 billion in military aid that the United States has been giving Egypt since 1979, the signing of the Egyptian, Israeli peace treaty, accounts for about 15% of all the expenditures of the Egyptian armed forces. More importantly, even than that, that money is not spent in Egypt. That money is spent in the United States. And it's McDonnell Douglas and Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, and so on. Who are ultimately the recipients of much of that $1.3 billion. So, that's what the relationship is about. What's it for? It's for two things. First, Egypt is part of this broader Sunni alliance, or was, anyway, as long as Mubarak was in the saddle. And the Egyptian army which just doesn't have very much real capacity to fight a war, but nonetheless is large and Egypt is strategically placed, and it sits across the Suez Canal, so it's important to have that relationship. And number two, Egypt keeps the peace with Israel. And that's important from the United States' point of view, for regional stability. There's of course, lots of interest in Israel on Capitol Hill. Basically, the Israel lobby can get Congress to do pretty much whatever it wants. Whether that gets translated into actual policy is a different question, sometimes, often it is, too. So that's what the relationship has been about. That said, I think it's wrong to imagine, as many Egyptians do, that the United States simply, pushed a button and told the, Egyptian military to carry out the coup on July 3rd. And to go ahead and do everything else that's been done since then, which includes killing more than a thousand civilians. I'm pretty confident that people in Washington think that that was excessive, and would very much have preferred that the Egyptian army not do that. That said, former president Hosni Mubarak also did a lot of things that people in Washington didn't like. He tortured people, he fixed elections and so on and so forth. Did the United States therefor break it's relationship with Mubarak? No. Every single president during the nearly 30 years of Mubarak's rule supported Egypt. Nearly unreservedly, every once in awhile especially during the George W Bush administration someone would say, well we think you ought to be more democratic, more respect for human rights, but, but it didn't happen. Was there any consequences? No. So, It's going to stay this way although the United States I don't think, authorize the coup. So Samuel Taber asks, behind all the headlines about the popular uprisings in the Arab world since 2011, what's happened on the economic front? Have any of the political changes resulted in economic changes? Changes of economic policy. And, that too has a simple answer which is, no. It's important to understand that the background to the uprisings is the, neoliberal economic transformation of the region, the dismantling of Arab socialism. The dismantling of large public sectors. The dismantling of publicly supported health, education and other social benefits, basically cutting back the state sector and hoping that non governmental organizations will pick up the slack. Which by and large they have not. But to the extent that they have, it's been Islamic non-governmental organizations that have done so, and that's where their power comes from. The Muslim Brothers, however, who came to power in Egypt, both in the parliament, which was then suspended, because of having been illegally elected, and, then, I think we can now ay safely say former president Mohammed Morsi. Their economic policy is no different than that of the Mubarak team. They are free market neo-liberals. Back in the spring of 2012 some hundred American businessmen were taken to Egypt to introduce them to the country and to encourage them to invest, and they were pleased as punch. Because they were totally welcomed and there was no problem at all. Egypt under Morsey was very much wanting to negotiate a 4.8 billion dollar loan from the International Monetary fund. Which would come with all of the conditionalities that such loans typically do come from, with, in this case, reducing further the subsidies on bread and on petroleum based fuels. and, I was in Egypt in December when the outlines of this, agreement were initialed. And the, the next day the government announced in the newspapers that a whole list of commodities were going to go up in prices. So, of course people very unhappy, and then there was a upheaval about the fact that the president had essentially declared himself above the law, and it was put on ice. Now, because there is some chance that the United States will cut military aid to Egypt, because of the ugly situation going on there, the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Arab Emirates, have offered to give Egypt at least 10 billion dollars. And have the capacity to give much more if they want to, to make up for what the international monetary fund, the European Union, and the United States might cut. Or not give in aid because they don't approve of the military coup. That can't entirely make up for it because the Saudis can't give kits for assembling tanks and spare parts and mechanical services for F-16 aircraft. But again, the Egyptian army really doesn't need those things for any purpose that is actually on it's immediate agenda. The purpose that is actually on it's immediate agenda is repressing the Egyptian people. So Benjamin Robinson would like to know, what would a stabilized Syria look like would it look like Egypt, military run state what about, civil society? What about the labor movement? Are there any chances for these elements to come to the floor? So here we have to say two very sad things, even though as I often tell people, I'm a historian and not a prophet, so this is not something that I would like to sign my name to unequivocally. I don't think there is going to be stability in either Egypt or Syria, in the short run. In Egypt, the majority of the population is more sharply polarized than ever in modern Egyptian history. Between supporters of the army, who include people who until recently, were hailed as democrats and liberals by most western countries and international organizations and so on. And the other part of the people who are not entirely supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood but, who believe that, the results of a democratic election shouldn't be overturned by a military coup. And, those due tend to be, for the most part, the more Islamically oriented people, but it's by far not, not the only group. In the middle, there's a very small number of people who don't like either camp. Who say, no there should have been a military coup against democratically elected president, the first democratically president in Egypt's history. And, the Muslim Brothers were ruling in an undemocratic way. And, and in an incompetent way to boot. But, we should have waited until the next election. Because they have lost lots of, popularity and prestige. As almost anyone, who would have been elected president, would have done because Egypt's problems are not soluble in the short run. And those people are having their lives threatened and being called traitors and spies and there's a certain hysteria in Egypt which is at nearly unbelievable proportions. The other day, someone captured a duck which had some kind of a tracking device on its back. And brought it into the police station, claiming that it was a spy. now, it was the European bird watchers, put the tracking device on the duck, it obviously wasn't a spy. But this is an in, indication of the level of hysteria and xenophobia that is rampant now in Egypt. And if you combine that with the fact that the Egyptian educational system is dysfunctional, and this person who turned the duck in, probably hadn't heard of devices being put on birds to track them, that's what you have. Syria, you've got now a 100,000 people dead, and why that's not at least as big an atrocity as 1,400 or however many it was, killed by chemical weapons, is a very good question to ask. You've got four million and more people displaced internally in Syria, another two million refugees outside the country. This is a country with a population of only 20-some million. This is not a country which is going to come back together easily in the foreseeable future. The only chance for that to happen is one that no one in the, inside the Beltway, serious circles is speaking about seriously. And that is, there's on the table the idea of having a Geneva conference, inviting Russia and trying to make some compromise between the Assad regime and the opposition. That can't work without two things. One, there has to be a compromise, the, there's no reason for us, to come to Geneva if the end result will only be that he's out. In that case, why not fight to the end? So there has to be a willingness to establish the same kind of messy transition, that there was in Yemen. Not, very satisfactory, from anybody's point of view. But a lot better than endless bloodshed. The second criteria is Iran has to be invited. Why? Because Iran is Syria's strongest actual backer in terms of sending arms, being there on the spot, and so on. Now, United States doesn't want to deal with Iran since the revolution in 1979. This is, in my opinion the root of a good many of the problems that the United States has had in the region. Iran is a very strong country. It's a major petroleum producer, it's got a highly educated population. Women are highly integrated into the University student body, more than a majority, more than 50% of all the University students are women. It's got a very high percentage of women's participation in the wage labor force so Iran, for geostrategic rela, reasons, whether or not we like the regime there, which I don't, to put that on the record, have to deal with. We didn't like the Soviet Union, but having detente was better than having nuclear devastation, so we decided to deal with them. Unless the Unites States behaves differently than it has behaved in the region since the 1980s, really. There isn't going to be real stability because United States wants to accomplish something which, I think at this point, can't be accomplished. Essentially, to go back in one form, or another, to the status quo ante, before January 2011. It would be preferable if countries like Egypt, and Tunisia, would be more democratic. And Tunisia I think in fact, which we haven't spoken about, has a better chance of becoming a stable democracy than Egypt. But if that can't happen, as long as the American interests in the region are secured. So it'll be okay if they're autocratic too. There can't however, be democracy in Bahrain. Even though, from a political point of view, the democracy movement in Bahrain was far more sophisticated, far more unified. Represented a far larger proportion of the population in its inception than anywhere else in the region. But the Saudi's marched in and smashed it by force of arms. Arms which were supplied by the United States. But because the Saudis did not want to see a democracy on their doorstep. And the United States whether or not it would have like Bahrain to be democratic, has no choice but to acriness in that as long as Saudi Arabia is the key American ally in the region. [MUSIC] >> Stanford University.



Al-Assad started planning to seize power shortly after the failed Syrian military intervention in the Black September crisis in Jordan.[3] While Al-Assad had been in de facto command of Syrian politics since 1969, Salah Jadid and his supporters still held all the formal trappings of power.[3] After attending Gamal Abdel Nasser's funeral, Al-Assad returned to Syria to attend the Emergency National Congress held on 30 October 1970.[3] At the congress, Al-Assad was condemned by Jadid and his supporters, who formed the majority of the party delegates.[3] However, before attending the congress, Al-Assad had ordered troops loyal to him to surround the building in which the congress was held.[3] Criticism of Al-Assad's political position continued, but with Assad's troops surrounding the building, the majority of delegates knew that they had lost the battle.[3] Assad and Mustafa Tlass were stripped of their government posts during the congress, although this move had little practical influence.[3]

When the National Congress broke up on 12 November 1970, Al-Assad ordered loyalists to arrest the leading members of Jadid's government.[4] While many leading middle men were offered posts in Syria's embassies abroad, Jadid refused, telling Assad, "If I ever take power you will be dragged through the streets until you die."[4] In response, Assad imprisoned Jadid who spent the rest of his life at Mezze prison.[4] There were no fatalities, and the country remained calm following the coup.[4] The only proof to the outside world that something was amiss was the fact that official dailies, radio, and, television stations either stopped publishing or were off the air.[4] A Temporary Regional Command was established shortly after, and on 16 November 1970, the new government published its first decree.[4]



Political reforms

Assad's faction, which was far smaller than the pro-Jadid faction, began recruiting Aflaqites to top positions to cement their power.[5] Assad appealed directly to Michel Aflaq's sympathizers by stating: "Let us rebuild together and if we fail our heads will all be on the block together".[5] An estimated 2,000 people responded to Assad's invitation, among them were Georges Saddiqni, a party ideologist, and Shakir al-Fahham, one of the secretaries of the Ba'ath Party's founding congress in 1947.[6] However, despite trying to strengthen his hold on the party, at a 1970 Regional Command meeting, its members opposed Assad's motion to appoint a figurehead to lead the party. As a result, Assad went on to establish a separate power base apart from the party.[7]

As part of his "corrective movement," at the 11th National Congress Assad introduced a general revision of national policy. Included in these revisions were measures introduced to consolidate his rule. His Ba'athist predecessors had restricted control of Islam in public life and government.[8] Because the Constitution allowed only Muslims to become president,[9] Assad, unlike Jadid, presented himself as a pious Muslim. In order to gain support from the ulama—the educated Muslim class — he prayed in Sunni mosques, even though he was an Alawite. Among the measures Assad introduced were the raising in rank of some 2,000 religious functionaries, and the appointment of an alim as minister of religious functionaries and construction of mosques. He appointed a little-known Sunni teacher, Ahmad al-Khatib, as Head of State in order to satisfy the Sunni majority.[8] Assad also appointed Sunnis to senior positions in the government, the military, and the party. All of his prime ministers, defense ministers, and foreign ministers, a majority of his cabinet, were Sunnis. In the early 1970s, Assad was verified as an authentic Muslim by the Sunni Mufti of Damascus and made the Hajj—the pilgrimage to Mecca. In his speeches, he often used terms such as "jihad" (a holy war) and "shahada" (martyrdom) when referring to fighting Israel.[9]

The coup turned Syria's social and political structures upside down. The Alawites, Assad's sect, although no more than 12% of the population, came to occupy coveted positions in every sector of life in Syria.[1]

Economic reforms

Assad reverted his predecessor's policy of radical economic socialism, and strengthened the private sector's role in the economy.[10] In many ways the Corrective Movement resulted in a tacit alliance between the political elite and the Damascene bourgeoise.[11]

Foreign policy

The reforms also sought to normalize Syria's relations with the other Arab states since it had been isolated diplomatically during Jadid's short-lived rule.[10] Assad tried to establish working relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in order to establish the so-called "Cairo–Damascus–Riyadh axis" to strengthen security cooperation against Israel.[10] The cooperation agreement was effective, and when Egypt and Syria failed to win the October War in 1973, Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil producers ceased selling oil to the West.[10]


The Syrian government commemorates the Corrective Movement with an official holiday, observed on 16 November of each year.[12][13]

When the communist governments in the Eastern Bloc collapsed, an ideological crisis within the government arose.[14] However, Assad and his supporters hit back, stating that because of the "Corrective Movement under the leadership of the warrior Hafez al-Assad", the principles of economic and political pluralism, which had been introduced "some two decades" beforehand, safeguarded the Syrian government from the possibility of collapse.[14]

Later, on 27 January 2000, Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa stated, "I am not exaggerating when I say that the Corrective Movement, which took place in 1970 under the leadership of Hafez al-Assad ... has crystallized for the first time in modern Arab history a mature and realistic pan-Arab ideology."[15]


  1. ^ a b Seale, Patrick (15 June 2000). "Hafez al-Assad". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  2. ^ Hinnebusch 2001, p. 61.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Seale 1990, p. 162.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Seale 1990, p. 164.
  5. ^ a b Seale 1990, p. 171.
  6. ^ Seale 1990, pp. 171–172.
  7. ^ Lefevre 2013, p. 12.
  8. ^ a b Alianak 2007, pp. 129–130.
  9. ^ a b Reich 1990, p. 55.
  10. ^ a b c d Freedmen 2002, p. 179.
  11. ^ Hinnebusch 2001, p. 87.
  12. ^ Weeden 1999, p. 42.
  13. ^ Ayalon 1993, p. 670.
  14. ^ a b Ziser 2001, p. 47.
  15. ^ Korany & Dessouki 2010, p. 430.


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