Salah Omar al-Ali
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|Salah Omar al-Ali|
|Member of the Regional Command of the Iraqi Regional Branch|
October 1966 – 1970
|Born||17 July 1938
|Political party||Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party|
Salah Omar Al-Ali (born on 17 July 1938) was a member of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, Iraqi Minister of Culture and Information from 1968 to 1970, and subsequently ambassador to Sweden, Spain and the United Nations from 1973 to 1981. He is currently a leading member of the Iraqi opposition.
Although he was formerly a leading member of the Ba'ath Party, and was therefore very close to individuals such as Saddam Hussein who were subsequently accused of having committed a number of atrocities. Al-Ali is popular in Iraq, he resigned twice from high ranking governmental positions in protest.
Al-Ali was born in Salah ad Din Governorate, in a village near the city of Tikrit. His father, Omar, was a small landowner who was involved in agricultural production. Al-Ali eventually migrated to Baghdad where he attended law school and became active in politics. At the time, the two major political parties that were popular amongst Iraqi youth were the Iraqi Communist Party and the Ba'ath Party, both of which expounded socialist principles relating to the redistribution of wealth and the eradication of the old social classes that dominated Iraqi society at the time, and both of which were violently opposed to the British. In that context, Al-Ali joined the Ba'ath party. His activism generated a certain amount of hostility from the government.
Years in Government
By 1968, Al-Ali was a leading member of the Ba'ath Party. When the Ba'ath seized power in the July Revolution of 1968, Al-Ali was appointed to the Iraqi Revolution Command Council (the "RCC"), a group of six leading Baath party officials who held joint executive authority over the entire country. Each member of the RCC also held governmental posts; Al-Ali was appointed Minister of Culture and Information. As such, Al-Ali was responsible for cultural affairs and for managing the government's official information campaign.
Exile in Lebanon
A number of differences emerged between Al-Ali and the rest of his ministerial colleagues, in 1970, Al-Ali resigned from his governmental positions as a result of these differences, and was sent into exile to Egypt. Al-Ali remained in Egypt for some time and eventually moved to Lebanon, where he remained until 1973.
Years in diplomacy
In 1972 and 1973, two major events greatly affected Iraq's geopolitical position. Firstly, in 1972, the Ba'athist government decided to put an end to British interests in Iraq's oil industry and nationalised all oil interests owned by British companies throughout the country. Secondly, the 1973 oil crisis caused the price of oil to quadruple in international markets overnight. The combination of these two events greatly reinforced the position of the Ba'ath, which was then able to invest vast amounts of capital into Iraq's economy and into its military.
At that point the Iraqi government, confident of its position, invited a number of dissidents to return to Iraq. Al-Ali returned to Baghdad after he was promised safe passage. Shortly after his arrival he was offered the position of Ambassador to Sweden, which he initially refused but was soon appointed as Ambassador to Sweden, where he served from 1973 to 1976. He subsequently was Ambassador to Spain from 1976 to 1978, and was then appointed as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, where he served from 1978 to 1981.
Years in opposition
Saddam Hussein assumed the presidency in 1979, and later that year attended the Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba, which Al-Ali also attended and met with representatives from the new Islamic Republic of Iran.
A few months after the Iran-Iraq war commenced, Al-Ali resigned his position once again. As a result of this decision, Al-Ali was banned from returning to his home country, and was only able to return to Iraq after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
After the 1991 Gulf War, Al-Ali decided to formally join the Iraqi opposition, and with Iyad Allawi formed the short-lived Al-Wifaq party. He began publishing a weekly political newspaper from London that adopted an anti-Saddam and staunchly patriotic line. The paper rejected any foreign influence in the country and was fiercely opposed to the international sanctions that had been imposed against Iraq by the international community.
Return to Iraq
As the war commenced in March 2003, Al-Ali was interviewed on a number of occasions on Al-Jazeera in which he condemned both the US-led invasion and Saddam Hussein's government. As the Iraqi regime began crumbling, Al-Ali entered the country through the Syrian-Iraqi border and this event was captured on an Al-Arabiya documentary that was aired shortly after the war.
Al-Ali has continued living in Baghdad since the war, where he continues to publish his weekly newspaper, which has now adopted an anti-occupation and opposition stance.