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 A Brief History of Modern Syria

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Maria Nader
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PostSubject: A Brief History of Modern Syria   Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:50 pm

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]Syria fell to the
Ottoman Turks in 1516 and
remained a part of their Ottoman Empire for four centuries. During this
period, Syria witnessed great deterioration in economic, social, and
political
fields. In 1916, the Arabs took the opportunity of World War I to
revolt against the Turkish rule. Arabs received British military help
and promises that after the War ends, Arab countries will be granted
full independence. On 6 May 1916, the
Ottoman authorities hanged tens of Syrian national leaders in Damascus
and Beirut. This day is still celebrated in Syria and Lebanon as the
Martyrs' Day. The Arab armies under
leadership of Sharif Hussein of Mecca soon achieved victory over the
Turks, and in
early 1918, Arab and British armies entered Damascus ending 400 years
of
Ottoman occupation.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(75,106)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/faisal_s.jpg[/img]Later in 1918, Syria was declared an
independent kingdom under King Faisal I, son of Sharif Hussein. However, France
and Britain had their own plans in mind. In an agreement known as the
Sykes-Picot agreement, they decided to divide the Middle East into French and
British 'spheres of influence'. Syria was to be put under French mandate. In early
1920, French troops landed on the Syrian coast, after several battles with
poorly equipped Syrian rebels, they managed to get the country under their
control. In 1923, the League of Nation officially recognized French mandate
over Syria.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(140,87)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/revolt_s.jpg[/img]Syrians
decided to resist the new
invaders. In 1925, they revolted against the mandate. Several
battles took place in Jabal al-Arab region and in Damascus. The
capital was severely damaged during French air raids in retaliation for
the
city's support for rebels. It was until 1936 when France finally
accepted to give Syria
partial independence according to the Franco-Syrian treaty signed in
Paris, but French troops remained on the Syrian soil and continued to
influence the Syrian
policies. During World War II, Syria witnessed military confrontations
between French troops loyal to the Vichy government, allied with the
Germans, and Free French troops allied with the British. In 1941, the
British army, along with its French allies, occupied the country, and
promised full independence after the end of the war.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]Again, the French did not live
up to their promises.
Syrians protested again, and in 29 May 1945, French troops attacked the Syrian Parliament
building in Damascus, sparking more anger and demonstrations. The matter was
discussed in the United Nations Security Council, which came up with a
resolution demanding France's withdrawal from Syria. The French had to comply; their last soldier
left Syria on 17 April 1946, which was chosen to be Syria's National Day.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]The early years of independence
were marked by
political instability. In 1948, the Syrian army was sent to Palestine to fight
along with other Arab armies against the newly created State of Israel. The Arabs lost the war,
and Israel occupied 78 percent of the area of historical Palestine. In July 1949,
Syria was the last Arab country to sign an armistice agreement with Israel. However,
It was only the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(135,99)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/zaim_s.jpg[/img]In
1949, Syria's national government was
overthrown by a military coup d'etat led by Hussni al-Zaim. Later that
year Zaim
was overthrown by his colleague Sami al-Hinnawi. Few months later,
Hinnawi was overthrown
by Colonel Adib al-Sheeshakli. The latter continued to rule the country
until 1954, when growing public opposition forced him to resign and
leave the country. The
national government was restored, but again to face instability, this
time coming from abroad. In the mid
1950s, Syria's relation with the West witnessed some tension with the
improving
Syrian-Soviet relations. In 1957, Turkey, a close ally of the US and a
member of
the NATO, massed its troops on the Syrian borders threatening to invade
the
country.[/size][/font]


[img(148,78)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/uar_s.jpg[/img][font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]The western threat was also one of the reasons that helped achieve Syria's union
with Egypt under the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958, with Egyptian Gamal
Abdel Nasser as president. Nasser's condition to accept union with Syria was
dissolving all Syrian political parties. This was one of many reasons that led
to the collapse in of the UAR on September 28, 1961, with a bloodless military
coup in Damascus.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]In 8 March 1963, the Baath Arab Socialist Party
came to power in a coup known in Syria as the March Revolution. The Baathists
dissolved the Parliament and introduced a one-party regime that was destablized
by conflicts within the Baath itself. In February 1966, the right wing of Baath
assumed leadership of the party, establishing radical Salah Jadid as the
strongman of the country.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(141,103)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/war_s.jpg[/img]In the
spring of 1967, severe clashes erupted on the borders between Syria and Israel.
In April, Israeli officials publicly threatened to invade Syria. Those threats
were among other major events that led to the Six Days War between Israel and
its neighboring Arab countries. On 5 June 1967, Israel started its war against
the Arabs, first by invading the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank of
Jordan and then on June 10, the Syrian Golan Heights. Within two days of
fighting, Syria had lost the strategic region including its main city of
Quneitra. On June 11, the warring parties accepted the UN's call for
cease-fire. Later in 1967, the UN security council issued its famous 242
resolution calling for complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied
in the Six Day War, in exchange for peace talks and Arab recognition of Israel's
right to exist.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(63,84)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/assad_s.jpg[/img]November
16, 1970; Hafez al-Assad, then the defense
minister, led the Correction Movement that finally brought Syria
long-lasting stability
after years of political disturbance. Assad, elected president in 1971,
started to get the nation ready to fight for its occupied
land. He mobilized the major political powers in Syria under the
National
Progressive Front, and got the People's Council (Parliament) back to
work.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]The Syrians did not wait too long. On October,
6th 1973, Syria and Egypt launched a surprising attack against the Israeli
forces in the occupied Sinai and Golan Heights. Within few days, Syrian troops
had almost liberated all the land occupied in 1967, but Israeli forces managed to
recover after a massive US airlift. Syria soon found itself fighting US and Israel
together; and with the fighting on the Egyptian front ceased, the Syrians
were forced to accepted the UN call for a cease-fire. The UN Security Council issued another
resolution, 338, calling for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories and for
peace talks to achieve a just peace in the Middle East. [/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(140,96)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/golan_s.jpg[/img]Obviously,
the Syrians did not want the war to end this way. In early 1974 they launched a
war of attrition against the
Israeli forces in the Golan. The continuous fighting and the Arab moral victory pushed
the US into mediating a settlement between Syria and Israel. The US secretary of
state Henry Kissinger succeeded in reaching an agreement to disengage Syrian and Israeli
troops in the Golan. According to the agreement, Syria regained control over a
strip of territory in the Golan including the major city of Quneitra. President
Assad raised the Syrian flag over the liberated land on June 26, 1974, but the
Syrians were surprised to find that Quneitra and many other towns and villages in the Golan were
deliberately destroyed by the Israelis. The city was never rebuilt. UN troops were deployed in the liberated
area to prevent any violations of the cease-fire.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(142,98)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/lebanon_s.jpg[/img]In 1975,
Civil War broke out in Lebanon. In
1976, Syrian troops were deployed in Lebanon upon request from the Lebanese
Government. The troops in Lebanon stood
against the invading Israeli army in 1982, and full-scale land and air battles
took place between the two sides. In 1990, Syria and its allies in Lebanon succeeded in
putting an end to the 15-year-old civil war, and Syrian troops remained in Lebanon
to maintain security and stability.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat
signed a separate peace agreement with Israel, which was a serious blow to Arab
solidarity. Syria was among other Arab nations that opposed Sadat's move. If
Israelis really wants peace, Syria proposed, they should simply withdraw from
all the territories occupied in 1967.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]In 1980, Iraq launched a war
against Iran. Earlier in 1979, the Islamic revolution in Iran had ended its
alliance with the west and declared its support for the Palestinian cause. Syria
thought this was a wrong war, at a wrong time and against the wrong enemy. Very
few Arab countries supported the Syrian position. Only two years after his war against Iran
ended with nothing but heave losses and causalities, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded the small
Arabian Gulf
state of Kuwait in August 1990, sparking wide spread international condemnation.
Syria participated in the US-led international coalition that was formed to
defend Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. The Gulf War that followed resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi
and imposing harsh international sanctions on Iraq. Another major Arab power was
now practically out of the conflict with Israel.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(138,95)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/madrid_s.jpg[/img]After the Gulf War, Syria accepted the US
invitation for
an international peace conference on the Middle East. The conference, held in
Madrid in November 1991, marked the launch of bilateral Arab-Israeli peace talks
that were supposedly based on the UN resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories
occupied in 1967, and on the so-called 'land for peace' principle. However, they were
stalled for years because of Israel's continuous refusal to give back any
Arab territory. [/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]The Arab position was more weakened when the
Palestinians and the Jordanians signed separate peace agreements with Israel in
1993 and 1994. Syria and
Lebanon, however, vowed to sign peace together or sign not. Syria continued to support the
Lebanese resistance fighters led by Hizbollah against the Israeli occupation
forces in South Lebanon. In May 2000, Hizbollah succeeded in driving Israel out
of Southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]Syrian-Israeli peace talks
reached a dead end in 1996
with Israel refusing to discuss the complete withdrawal from the Golan
Heights. But in late 1999, Israel signaled its will to accept such move, and the talks were resumed in the US, this time
at a high level
between Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sahara'a and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak. The talks were again stalled in early 2000 when Barak tried to exclude
the northeastern shore of the Lake Tiberias from the proposed Israeli withdrawal
plan. Syria made it clear that no single inch of the Syrian soil will
be given away.[/size][/font]

[font:fdb7=Verdana][size=9]
[img(81,77)]http://www.damascus-online.com/history/assad2_S.jpg[/img]On June 10th 2000, President Assad died of
a heart attack. His son, Bashar al-Assad was elected President on July 10th. [/size][/font]
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