1970 Coup
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

Syria Syrian Armed Forces
Commanders and leaders
Syria Salah Jadid (POW)
Syria Nureddin al-Atassi
Syria Hafez al-Assad
Syria Rifaat al-Assad
Syria Mustafa Tlass
Casualties and losses
No deaths

The Corrective Movement (Arabic: الحركة التصحيحية al-Ḥarakah at-Taṣḥīḥīyah), also referred to as the Corrective Revolution or 1970 coup, is the name of a bloodless coup d'état led by General Hafez Assad on 13 November 1970.[1] Assad proclaimed to sustain and improve the "nationalist socialist line" of the state and the Ba'ath party.[2] Assad would rule Syria until his death in 2000, after which he was succeeded by his son Bashar Assad.


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" (struggle) 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 bourgeoisie,[11] of whom the latter had previously provided the primary base of support for the National Party of Syria prior to the Ba'ath Party's seizure of power in 1963.

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.[citation needed]

When the communist governments in the Eastern Bloc collapsed, an ideological crisis within the government arose.[12] 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.[12]

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."[13]


  1. ^ a b Seale, Patrick (15 June 2000). "Hafez al-Assad". The Guardian. Guardian.co.uk. 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. ^ a b Ziser 2001, p. 47.
  13. ^ Korany & Dessouki 2010, p. 430.