Amin al-Hafiz

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This article is about the Syrian politician. For similarly named Lebanese politician and Prime Minister, see Amin al-Hafez (Lebanon).
Amin al-Hafez
أمين الحافظ
Amin al-Hafez 1965.jpg
Regional Secretary of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch
In office
4 October 1964 – 19 December 1965
Secretary General Michel Aflaq
Munif al-Razzaz
Preceded by Shibli Aysami
Succeeded by Nureddin al-Atassi
(Regional Command dissolved in December 1965, new Regional Secretary elected in March 1966)
President of Syria
In office
27 July 1963 – 23 February 1966
Preceded by Lu'ay al-Atassi
Succeeded by Nureddin al-Atassi
Prime Minister of Syria
In office
4 October 1964 – 23 September 1965
Preceded by Salah al-Din Bitar
Succeeded by Yusuf Zu'ayyin
In office
12 November 1963 – 13 May 1964
Preceded by Salah al-Din Bitar
Succeeded by Salah al-Din Bitar
Member of the National Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
In office
23 October 1963 – 23 February 1966
Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch
In office
1 February 1964 – 19 December 1965
Personal details
Born 1921
Aleppo, Syria
Died December 17, 2009(2009-12-17) (aged 88)
Aleppo, Syria
Political party Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
Spouse(s) Zeinab al-Hafiz
Religion Sunni Islam

Amin al-Hafiz (or Hafez; 1921(?) – 17 December 2009)[1] (Arabic: أمين الحافظ‎) was a Syrian politician, general and member of the Ba'ath Party.

Career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Al-Hafiz was born in the city of Aleppo.

His first main political role was in 1958, as part of a Syrian army delegation that visited Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian president. The two states duly merged into one United Arab Republic in February that year, and Hafez was posted to Cairo. The union crumbled after a Syrian uprising in September 1961, and the resultant secessionist regime banished Hafez to Argentina as Syria's military attaché.[2]

Rise to power[edit]

Hafiz (right) with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser on his arrival to Cairo for the Arab League summit, 1964

The 1963 Syrian coup d'état led by the Military Committee introduced Hafiz to public life. In the aftermath of the coup the National Council of the Revolutionary Command (NCRC) became the country's supreme organ. The NCRC was dominated by the Syrian branch of the radical, pan-Arab Ba'ath Party, and Hafiz became its President. As President, he instituted socialist reforms and oriented his country towards the Eastern Bloc.

Eli Cohen affair[edit]

Allegedly, during his exile in Buenos Aires, Hafez befriended a supposed Lebanese trader named Kamal Amin Thaabet, an allegation which he flatly denies. According to Hafez he never met Cohen in Argentina. His account was that Cohen was a socialite who befriended officers in the Syrian Army but was never a part of the military in any official capacity. Generally, the importance of the intelligence provided to the Israeli's was greatly exaggerated. [3] Thaabet was actually an Egyptian-born Israeli Mossad agent, Eli Cohen. Thaabet/Cohen arrived in Syria in early 1962, a year before Hafez’s return, and soon began passing information about Syrian military plans to Israel.[2]

As president, Hafez groomed Thaabet/Cohen to be a future defence minister and possibly even his successor. An allegation which he also flatly denied and challenged.[4] He invited him to functions and gave him tours of secret fortifications in the Golan Heights. When Cohen was revealed as a spy in January 1965, Hafez personally interrogated him and ordered the arrest of 500 of his highly placed friends. Despite international pleas for clemency, Hafez had Cohen publicly hanged in Damascus.[2]

Downfall[edit]

On 23 February 1966, he was overthrown by a radical Ba'athist faction headed by Chief of Staff Salah Jadid.[5][6] A late warning telegram of the coup d'état was sent from President Nasser to Nasim al-Safarjalani (The General Secretary of Presidential Council), on the early morning of the coup d'état. The coup sprung out of factional rivalry between Jadid's "regionalist" (qutri) camp of the Ba'ath Party, which promoted ambitions for a Greater Syria and the more traditionally pan-Arab Hafiz faction, called the "nationalist" (qawmi) faction. Jadid's supporters were also seen as more radically left-wing.[7] But the coup was also supported and led by officers from Syria's religious minorities, especially the Alawite Muslims and the Druze, whereas Hafiz belonged to the majority Sunni population. Alawis have ruled Syria ever since.

Exile and return[edit]

After being wounded in the three-hour shootout that preceded the coup, in which 2 of his own children were seriously wounded, Hafez was jailed in Damascus's Mezzeh prison before being sent to Lebanon in June 1967. A year later he was relocated to Baghdad. In 1971, the courts of Damascus sentenced him to death in absentia, however Saddam Hussein "treated him and his fellow exile, Ba'ath founder Michel Aflaq, like royalty" and the sentence was not carried out.[8] After the fall of Saddam in the Iraq War of 2003, al-Hafiz was quietly allowed to return to Syria.[9] He died in Aleppo on December 17, 2009; reports of his age differ, but he was believed to be in his late 80's.[1][10] He received a state sponsored funeral.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Syria-news (Arabic)
  2. ^ a b c Joffe, Lawrence (16 February 2010). "Amin al-Hafez obituary". The Guardian (London). 
  3. ^ Al Jazeera Interview. "Shahid Al Asr" 2001.
  4. ^ Al Jazeera Interview. "Shahid Al Asr" 2001.
  5. ^ Associated Press (16 February 2010). "Amin al-Hafez obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (August 24, 1993). "Salah Jadid, 63, Leader of Syria Deposed and Imprisoned by Assad". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Syria:Coups and Countercoups, 1961-70". http://countrystudies.us/. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Joffe, Lawrence (16 February 2010). "Amin al-Hafez obituary: Leader of Syria's first Ba'athist regime". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Anthony Shadid (May 18, 2005). "Syria Heralds Reforms, But Many Have Doubts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  10. ^ AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE (December 18, 2009). "Amin el-Hafez, Baathist Leader of Syria in 1960s, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2012.