This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party (Iraq)

Hizb al-Ba'ath al-'Arabiyy al-Ishtirakiyy

Last modified: 2022-07-30 by ian macdonald
Keywords: party | baath | pan-arab |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[Ba'ath Party flag] image by M. Schmöger and Joseph McMillan

Variant Flag

[Ba'ath Party flag] image by M. Schmöger

See also:


The first branch of the counterterrorism force was created as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) initiative to create the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) to convince Iraqi leaders to disband their militias (such as the Badr Organization and the Mehdi Army, just to name the two biggest at the time). In November 2003, the United States Special Operation Forces' (USSF) component of the Multi National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) created and began to train the 36th ICDC Battalion. The unit was formed from the various ethnic and major political parties in Iraq to ensure it would be capable of conducting operations on a non-sectarian and non-political basis, and each of the various Iraqi militia leaders provided candidates. Shortly thereafter in December 2003, the U.S. Secretary of Defense and U.S. Central Command directed the development of a specific Iraqi counterterrorism unit. Again, USSF led this effort and selected volunteers from across Iraq representing Shi’as, Sunnis, and Kurds to form what would become the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF). After an assessment and vetting of candidates, those selected were sent to Jordan for training by USSF and Jordanian Special Forces.

The newly formed Special Operations unit was given the status of a Brigade and was established on December 14, 2003, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and became active on December 26, 2003 Trained, advised, and led in combat by USSF, the ICTF and the 36th ICDC Battalion operated independently until May 2004 when U.S. Central Command directed the two forces merge to form the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) Brigade, with the mission to conduct precision counterterrorism. The 36th ICDC Battalion was renamed as the 1st Battalion (Commando) and ICTF as the 2nd Battalion (ICTF), both in 2004.

Later on it was upgraded to قيادة العمليات الخاصة (English: Special Operations Command) due to its expansion on May 7, 2005

The designation of such a Brigade as قوات صقر الرافدين (English: "Saqr Al-Rafidain Forces") was given on May 9, 2005.

ISOF remained under the complete control of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP) until September 2006 when the U.S. led Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) and the Government of Iraq (GoI) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which placed ISF under the control of GoI, to include ISOF.

U.S. leaders wanted ISOF to be self-sustaining with a command structure that connected it to the GoI ministries that made polices and provided resources so Iraq could maintain ISOF after the U.S. departed. U.S. planners developed a concept for this goal which included the development of a Counter Terrorism Bureau (CTB), later renamed as the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) (or Jihaz Mukafahah al-Irhab, “Jihaz” being translated in English as either “bureau” or “service.” The Iraqi CTS Director later determined that the English word “service” more closely defined the role of CTS. U.S. advisors frequently referred to the entire CTS structure as the القوات الوطنية العراقية لمكافحة الارهاب (English: Iraqi National Counter-Terrorism Force, INCTF), although this was seldom translated into Arabic).

The concept also included the development of another separate organization, the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC), which would have operational control of ISOF, be equivalent to and on the same organization level as the Iraqi ground, air, and naval forces commands, and be under the control of JHQ (Joint Headquarters) / MoD (Ministry of Defence), which was approved in October, 2006, although it was removed later on from MoD's control.

An executive order in December 2006 placed ISOF under the prime minister. An executive order in January 2007 placed CTC under the prime minister. It became an independent operation unit on February 7, 2007, as part of the بقيادة مكافحة الارهاب (English: Anti Terrorism Command). The CTC and CTS became operational in March and April of 2007, respectively. An executive order in April 2007 placed CTS under the Prime Minister and in the chain of command of CTC, making it a quasi-ministerial level organization, equivalent in theory to MoD and MoI (Ministry of Interior), and in control of ISOF.

In January 2008, CJSOTF-AP and CTS began combined control of ISOF, meaning in practicality that some missions for ISOF came from the U.S. and others from GoI, although on the ground, almost every operation continued to be a partnership between USSF and ISOF.96 In summer 2008, the next phase of transition began with Iraqi control of ISOF with U.S. oversight.97 In 2009, ISOF was formally transferred to CTS with USSF and ISOF continuing to conduct side-by-side operations on the ground.98 U.S. advisors and trainers remained embedded in all levels of the organization and retained considerable influence over operations.99 Advisors always found that the CTS staff were transparent and readily accepted advice.

Another prominent counterterrorism force was MoI’s Emergency Response Brigade (ERB), which was also established with the assistance of USSF. By late 2011, USSF no longer worked with ERB and advisors believed that ultimately the ERB would be placed under CTS, but this never occurred.

In January 2012, the prime minister directed that CTS expand by another brigade. By the spring of 2013, the 3rd Brigade had been established in Basra, with the 2nd Brigade now in Mosul, and the 1st Brigade (known as the Golden Division) remaining in Baghdad. Between the three brigades, there were now regional commando battalions assigned and located in most of Iraq’s provinces."

Sources: "The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service" a Paper by David Witty (U.S. Army officer), published by The Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, in 2015 (, and 

For additional information please refer to ISOF-IQ (official website):

Esteban Rivera, 8 September 2020

Description of the flag

In a recent edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel (No. 37, p. 109), there is a photo of Saddam Hussein with some other high-ranking Iraqi politicians, admiring a gift from the Iraqi Ba'ath party. The picture shows a figurine (of Saddam Hussein, obviously), and behind several figurines holding up a flag, obviously the Ba'ath party flag. It is a green-white-black triband with a red triangle at the hoist, so the colours are reversed compared to the Syrian Ba'ath flag. The Syrian and the Iraqi factions are fierce opponents.
M. Schmöger, 20 September 2002

Well, this seems to be another questionable order of colors. Green-white-black or rather black-white-green? In a recent issue of Süddeutsche Zeitung (15 October 2002, p. 8) there was a photo of a wall painting with the Iraqi flag and (presumably) the Ba'ath party flag side by side. This time the black is on top and there is an inscription in the white stripe of the party flag.
M. Schmöger, 20 October 2002

The colors are traditional colors of the Arab revolt against the Ottomans.
Al Kirsch, 20 October 2002

The Arabic inscription reads Umma Arabiyya waHida, dhat risalati khalida, "One Arab nation, with an eternal mission."
Dov Gutterman and Andras Ledeczi, 20 October 2002

Yesterday I saw a documentary of Iraqi history on German TV (ARD), including a scene from about the 1950s, showing Ba'ath party members rallying around a Ba'ath flag. It was not clear where this happened and when exactly. However, although this was in black and white, it was obvious that the darker stripe was on the top of the flag, so that the original variant of the Ba'ath party flag was probably the black-white-green triband with the red triangle, as still used today in Syria. I had reported on 20 September 2002, that the current Iraqi Ba'ath party uses a variant with the reverse colour order green-white-black.
M. Schmöger, 22 March 2003

The report that the flag of the (former) Iraqi Ba`ath Party had the green stripe on top, as opposed to the Syrian Ba'ath, which has the black stripe on top, is incorrect. Actually, both are identical, and should have the black on top. Black on top is also the Palestinian flag. A photo from the old website of the now-defunct Iraqi Ba'ath Party newspaper al-Thawra, showing Saddam Husayn and the Ba'ath flag shows the black stripe on top. Across the white stripe it says Umma 'Arabiyya waHida, dhat risalati khalida (One Arab Nation, with an Eternal Mission). Underneath the flag is the inscription Wihda, Hurriyya, Ishtirakiyya (Unity, Freedom, Socialism). These were the Ba`ath Party's two slogans, in both Iraq and Syria, as each claimed to represent the "true" Ba'ath after the two wings split in the late 1960s. There were (are) Ba`thist parties in Jordan after parties were legalized in the early 1990s, by the way.
Michael Fischbach, 12 July 2004

My information was certainly based on weak evidence, namely one photo of a representation of the Ba'ath party flag. However, from my own experiences in searching images and representations of the (Syrian) Ba'ath party flag, I know that logos on websites showing a representation of the flag are not always correct. As stated in my posting of 22 March 2003, at least historically the Ba'ath party flag of Iraq had the black stripe on top. Whether this was the case in more recent years as well, is, in my opinion, not clear from the information we have.
M. Schmöger, 17 July 2004

The complete name for the Ba'ath Party is BASP (Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party).
The Ba'ath Parties (also spelled Baath or Ba'th) comprise political parties representing the political face of the Ba'ath movement. The original Ba'ath Party functioned as a pan-Arab party with branches in different Arab countries. In 1966 the Party split into two, one branch based in Syria and the other in Iraq. Both Ba'ath parties maintain parallel structures in the Arab world. The Arabic word Ba'ath means "rebirth". Ba'athist beliefs combine Arab Socialism, militarism, nationalism, and Pan-Arabism. The mostly secular ideology often contrasts with that of other Arab governments in the Middle East, which sometimes tend to have leanings towards Islamism and theocracy.
The motto of the Party is Wahdah, Hurriyah, Ishtirrakiyah means "Unity, Freedom, Socialism". "Unity" refers to pan-Arab unity, "Freedom'" emphasizes freedom from Western interests in particular, and "Socialism" specifically references Arab Socialism.
Esteban Rivera, 03 July 2005

The Iraqi and Syrian are fiercely opposite factions. They use a different order of stripes.
Santiago Dotor, 04 July 2005


[Ba'ath Party Emblem]  image located by Esteban Rivera, 03 July 2005

The party emblem is the same for all the representations abroad (i.e. Iraq, Syria, Sudan, etc.)
Esteban Rivera, 03 July 2005

The green shape seem to be a map -- solid outlines of northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Too small for non-trivial details, though.)
António Martins-Tuválkin, 03 July 2005