Syria History - the 20th Century

Defeating Turkey in the First World War, the emir Fayṣal, son of the king of Higiaz, trusting in the English promises, entered Damascus (October 1918), and proclaimed himself (1920) king of Syria. In the same year France, already in agreement with England, expelled Fayṣal and was entrusted by the League of Nations Syria and Lebanon in “mandate”. The French tutelage was useful for the economic and cultural development of the country; but accidents, even serious ones, were not lacking. World War II marked the end of the dominance of France. The leaders of the new Syria, recruited from the ranks of the nationalist bourgeoisie, did not prove to be up to the difficult internal and international situation that had developed after 1945. In 1949, three military coups moved the news. The military regimes that followed one another, in some cases under civilian guise, up to 1954, were inspired above all by a paternalist reformism little in step with the times and turned out to be personal dictatorships unable to create mass parties. In 1954, a vast campaign of popular demonstrations brought Syria back to parliamentary democracy. Four very agitated years followed: Syria, which had become an important pawn for the United States in a Middle Eastern system in crisis, experienced the emergence of a strong nationalist and socialist current led by the Baʽth party. International pressure and internal movements resulted in the decision to merge Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic (1958). The Syrian-Egyptian union broke up in 1961, after three years of suffocating Cairo centralism. After a moderate interlude, in 1963 the Baʽth, an ally of the pro-Nasserian nationalists, returned to power.

According to aceinland, the failure of negotiations for a tripartite federation between Syria, Egypt and Iraq led Syria to a phase of isolation. Baʽth himself was plagued by infighting between moderates and progressives, military and “civilians”. L’ “Strong man” Amīn el-Ḥafīz remained in power until 1966, when he was replaced by the left wing of the party. In 1967 Syria engaged with Egypt in an unfortunate war against Israel, which cost the loss of Golan Heights. In 1970, General al-Assad Hāfiz pushed the progressives aside, accusing them of excessive dirigisme and too strong Marxist tendencies, and ushered in a more liberal phase. In 1973 Assad allied himself with the Egyptians in an unsuccessful attempt to retake the Golan. Intransigent opponent of the Camp David accords (see Egypt), Syria entered (1976), with the dispatch of troops, as a decisive mediating force in the Lebanese civil war. As ties with the USSR (1980) became increasingly close, Syria found itself isolated from the majority of Arab countries for having failed the Saudi peace project for the Middle East at the Fès summit (1981); instead, it strengthened its position in Lebanon, especially after the withdrawal of the US, British, French, Italian and – partially – Israeli troops peacekeepers. Internally, since 1979, through terrorist actions on the one hand and no less violent repression on the other, the contrasts between Islamic organizations, especially the “Muslim Brotherhood”, and the Assad regime, an expression of the Alawite sect, have been accentuated.. The presence in Lebanese territory had therefore become more intense in the second half of the decade, giving rise to violent fighting with some of the warring factions (in particular against the pro-Iranian Shiites of Hezbollah, in 1987, and against the Christian troops of General Aoun, in 1989) as well as provoking strong conflicts with Iraq, a direct competitor of Syria for the acquisition of the role of regional power. Siding with the international coalition that intervened against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (August 1990), Syria found a way to achieve these objectives: the interested favor of Western countries had in fact allowed it to increase its influence in Lebanon to the point of winning last resistance and to subject the state to its own protection, emblematized by the signing of a treaty of brotherhood and cooperation between the two governments (May 1991).

Consequently, the role of the country in the Middle East pacification process was increased: a Syrian representation had thus actively participated in the initial stages of the special international conference, launched in Madrid in October 1991. The direct negotiations between Syria and Israel represented an undoubted step forward in the process of détente in the area, but they marked the step due to the lack of agreement on the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory, which the Jewish state did not want to give up, considering them essential to its military security. Despite the stalemate, al-Assad nevertheless reiterated to the US president but they marked the way for the lack of agreement on the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory, which the Jewish state did not want to give up, considering them essential to its military security. Despite the stalemate, al-Assad nevertheless reiterated to the US president but they marked the way for the lack of agreement on the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory, which the Jewish state did not want to give up, considering them essential to its military security. Despite the stalemate, al-Assad nevertheless reiterated to the US president WJ Clinton (January 1994) Syria’s willingness to reach a peace agreement with Israel. After the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Y. Rabin (November 1995), the Syrian and Israeli delegations met in Wye Plantation, Maryland (USA); at the end of the talks (December 1995) the diplomats of the two sides declared their intention to continue negotiations in order to resolve the Golan issue and restore peace to the southern border of Lebanon, the scene of continuous clashes between the Islamic guerrillas Hezbollah and the troops of Tel Aviv. In 1997 Syria and Iraq announced the reopening of their borders, which had been closed since 1982 due to Damascus’ support for Iran in the war against Iraq.

Syria History - the 20th Century