Atassi was a medical doctor by training, and in that capacity aided the Algerian forces against the French in the Algerian War of Independence. A longtime ideologue of the powerful Ba'ath Party Atassi became its General Secretary as well as President of the Republic in 1966. He was considered to be largely a ceremonial figurehead, with real power vested in the Deputy General Secretary, Salah Jadid
. In 1970, he was deposed along with Salah Jadid in a coup
by Hafez al-Assad, his defense minister.