History of Syria: The Republic

History of Syria: The Republic Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

The postwar period was characterized for serious political instability. In 1944 a “Greater Syria” movement had been launched to establish a "Syrian Arab" state that would include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Many Syrian opponents of the movement feared the absorption of Syria into a larger Arab state a subsequent loss of Syrian national identity. The movement nevertheless gave impetus to Syrian adherence to the Arab League, which was formed primarily to prevent the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Syrian forces participated in the 1948 war between Arab forces and the newly-established state of Israel. An armistice was concluded in July 1948 and March 30th 1949 a military group led by General Husni al-Za'im seized power.

The new regime was overthrown in August of the same year as a result of another military coup and Zai'm was executed. General elections were held in November for a constituent assembly. The former chief of police and head of security Colonel Adeeb al-Shishakli, seized power through a third coup d'état in December. The constituent assembly declared a new constitution in September 1950 and elected the provisional chief of state Hashim al-Atasi as president.

Syrian and Israeli frontier forces clashed on several occasions during the first quarter of 1951, but the hostilities originating from Syrian opposition to an Israeli drainage project in the demilitarized zone between the two countries, stopped on May the 15th due to intercession by the United Nations Security Council. On November 29th 1951, Shishakli led another coup d'état. President Atasi resigned shortly thereafter and Shishakli and his associates formed a new government. A new constitution was promulgated in 1953 by Shishakli. He restricted civil liberties and ruled the country as a military dictator until March 1954 when he was ousted by another military group, which reinstated Atasi as president and , reconvene d the 1949 chamber of deputies, and restored the constitution of 1950.

After 1954 Syria started to follow an increasingly anti-Western and pro-Soviet approach. In 1955, the government protested strongly against the creation of the defensive alliance formed then by Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Pakistan, the "Baghdad Pact". In July 1956 a committee was officially established by the Syrian chamber of deputies formally to negotiate the terms of a federation with Egypt. The growing Syrian resentment toward the West was intensified as a result of the attack on Egypt in October and November 1956 by Israel, France and the United Kingdom. Throughout 1957 Syria accepted increasing aid from the former USSR. In October 1957, the USSR agreed to provide aid to Syria over a twelve-year period for the construction of many large-scale development projects.

In 1958, Syria joined Egypt in founding the United Arab Republic, but the integration project collapsed in 1961.
In 1963 the "Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party" came to power. In November 1970, General Hafez al-Assad became president. He launched a modernization campaign, including a series of social and economic changes and a new constitution was approved in 1973. Syria took an active part in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, during which Israeli troops occupied the Golan Heights.
President al-Assad won a new seven-year term in 1985, and in December 1991 was re-elected for the fourth time.

In August 1994, the ruling "National Progressive Front" won the general elections, but the turnout was only 49 per cent of registered voters. In June 1995, In mid 1996, al-Assad participated in a meeting of Arab countries to coordinate a common strategy for negotiation with Israel. Damascus unexpectedly strengthened relations with Baghdad in November 1997 at the threat of fresh US military intervention in Iraq.

In 1999, al-Assad was reelected for his seventh consecutive five-year presidential term. The President stated during his electoral speech that the Government needed "new blood" to push ahead economic reforms.
Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon in May 2000, but this was not matched by a parallel withdrawal from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

President al-Assad died on June 10 and his son Bashar soon took over as president of the country and declared commander of the armed forces and nominated as party president.

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