Syria officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Southwest Asia, bordering Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea and the island of Cyprus to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north. The modern state of
Since 1963 the country has been governed by the Baath Party; the head of state since 1970 has been a member of the Assad family.
Fighting on the side of Germany during World War I, plans by the Entente powers to dissolve the great Ottoman territory could now begin. Two allied diplomats (Frenchman François Georges-Picot and Briton Mark Sykes) secretly agreed, long before the end of the war, how to split the
In 1920, an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal I of the Hashemite family, who later became the King of Iraq. However, his rule over
Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. Between 1946 and 1956,
The humiliating defeat suffered by the army was one of several trigger factors for Col. Husni al-Za'im's seizure of power in 1949, in what has been described as the first military coup d'état of the Arab world. This was soon followed by a new coup, by Col. Sami al-Hinnawi, who was then himself quickly deposed by Col. Adib Shishakli, all within the same year. After exercising influence behind the scenes for some time, dominating the ravaged parliamentary scene, Shishakli launched a second coup in 1951, entrenching his rule and eventually abolishing multipartyism altogether. Only when president Shishakli was himself overthrown in a 1954 coup, was the parliamentary system restored, but it was fundamentally undermined by continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military. By this time, civilian politics had been largely gutted of meaning, and power was increasingly concentrated in the military and security establishment, which had now proven itself to be the only force capable of seizing and -- perhaps -- keeping power. Parliamentary institutions remained weak and ineffectual, dominated by competing parties representing the landowning elites and various Sunni urban notables, while economy and politics were mismanaged, and little done to better the role of
During the Suez Crisis of 1956, after the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Israeli troops, and the intervention of British and French troops, martial law was declared in
In November 1956
The union was not a success, however. Following a military coup on September 28, 1961,
The Baath takeover in
The new government generally aligned itself with the hawkish Nasser in intra-Arab conflicts over how hard of a line to take against
The Golan Heights are located in the southwestern part of the
In the final days of the war, after having captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from
Conflict developed between an extremist military wing and a more moderate civilian wing of the Baath Party. The 1970 retreat of Syrian forces sent to aid the PLO during the "Black September" hostilities with Jordan reflected this political disagreement within the ruling Baath leadership. By November 13, 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad was solidly established as the strongman of the regime, when he effected a bloodless military coup ("The Corrective Movement") which ousted his rival, Salah Jadid.
Upon assuming power, Hafez al-Assad moved quickly to create an organizational infrastructure for his government and to consolidate control. The Provisional Regional Command of Assad's Arab Baath Socialist Party nominated a 173-member legislature, the People's Council, in which the Baath Party took 87 seats. The remaining seats were divided among "popular organizations" and other minor parties. In March 1971, the party held its regional congress and elected a new 21-member Regional Command headed by Assad. In the same month, a national referendum was held to confirm Assad as President for a 7-year term. In March 1972, to broaden the base of his government, Assad formed the National Progressive Front, a coalition of parties led by the Baath Party, and elections were held to establish local councils in each of
On October 6 1973,
About one million Syrian workers came into
The authoritarian regime was not without its critics, though most were quickly murdered. A serious challenge arose in the late 1970s, however, from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, who reject the basic values of the secular Baath program and object to rule by the Alawis, whom they consider heretical. From 1976 until its suppression in 1982, the arch-conservative Muslim Brotherhood led an armed insurgency against the regime. In response to an attempted uprising by the brotherhood in February 1982, the government crushed the fundamentalist opposition centered in the city of Hama, leveling parts of the city with artillery fire and causing between 10.000 and 25.000 of dead and wounded. Since then, public manifestations of anti-regime activity have been very limited.
Hafiz al-Assad died on June 10, 2000, after 30 years in power. Immediately following al-Assad's death, the Parliament amended the constitution, reducing the mandatory minimum age of the President from 40 to 34. This allowed his son, Bashar al-Assad, to become legally eligible for nomination by the ruling Baath party. On July 10, 2000, Bashar al-Assad was elected President by referendum in which he ran unopposed, garnering 97.29% of the vote, according to Syrian Government statistics. He was inaugurated into office on July 17, 2000 for a 7-year term.
In April, 2008, President Assad told a Qatari newspaper that
...there would be no direct negotiations with
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