What's The Baath Party In 'House Of Cards'? The Real Movement Has A Complicated History
House of Cards goes to great lengths to present itself as a series of events that could realistically happen — a difficult balancing act for any show, let alone one set in the White House. In an effort to make the fictional politics feel real, House of Cards sprinkles in details from the real world with fictionalized people and factions. A recent example of this is Yusuf Al Ahmadi — a member of the fictional terrorist group ICO, who also has a history as a part of the very real Baath Party. What is the Baath Party outside of House of Cards, and what are its connections to Yusuf Al Ahmadi?
According to the BBC, the history of the Baath Party (sometimes stylized as Ba'ath) goes back to 1947, which formed with the slogan "Unity. Freedom. Socialism." The BB reports that the political party appealed to "a generation of Arab political activists who wanted to overthrow the European-backed governments of the Middle East and create a modern industrial economy." The Baathists had a large influence in Syria and Iraq for the latter part fell out of the 20th century, before falling out of favor around 2003, according to CNN. However, some former Baathists have begun to collaborate with Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in an effort to return to power, according to The Washington Post.
So, what does this tell us about House of Cards' fictional Yusuf Al Ahmadi? It seems that Yusuf originally being associated with the Baathist party draws yet another comparison between the fictional ICO and the real ISIS. Netflix declined to comment when asked about any similarities. Still, these two organizations deal in terror and violence in their attempts to rise to power, meaning Yusuf Al Ahmadi could serve as a fictional counterpart to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It seems that the relationship between Baathists and ICO ends there as far as House of Cards is concerned, but the correlation between the two is a little more complicated than that.
As Reuters reported, "[ISIS and the Baathists are] a union of convenience ... many of the ex-Baathists working with Islamic State are driven by self-preservation and a shared hatred of the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad." Also according to Reuters, "Most former Baathist officers have little in common with Islamic State."
The connection between the two is primarily political, and it seems the ex-Baathists are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to their relationship with ISIS. As Al Arabiya reported, "[Baathists are] subordinate within what is a pseudo-religious experiment."
House of Cards pulls from a very real part of Middle Eastern history, as well as current events, to create a realistic threat to the series. The history of the Baath party in Syria and Iraq is intertwined with the formation of ISIS as well as many other powerful political figures in history, including Saddam Hussein who served as the party's final president before the party dissolved, according to Al-Monitor.
Yusuf Al Ahmadi is a fictional representation for the leadership of Middle Eastern forces that reject western ideals, and ICO is a powerful representation of the power and violence that these figures use to intimidate their enemies. While Yusuf and ICO are fake, the things they represent are all too real.
Image: David Giesbrecht/Netflix, Netflix