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The Syrian Arab Republic


Éditeur : AAAPME Date & Lieu : 1976, New York
Préface : Pages : 190
Traduction : ISBN : 0-917158-00-8
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 150x230 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Sin. Syr. 52Thème : Général

Présentation
Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The Syrian Arab Republic

The Syrian Arab Republic

Anne Sinai
Allen Pollack

AAAPME


The American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East is a non-profit, non-sectarian association of U.S. academicians who are concerned with the issues of the Arab - Israel conflict in all their ramifications. The Association attempts to utilize the best talents in the American academic community to stimulate, through analysis and research, new ideas and approaches to an Arab - Israeli rapprochement toward the attainment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. In addition to its sponsorship of full-length studies, AAAPME also publishes a quarterly journal, Middle East Review. AAAPME publications are read and used by academicians, Middle East specialists and students as text, source, background and research material.



Allen Pollack is a member of the Department of History at Yeshiva University.
Anne Sinai is the editor of Middle East Review.

 



INTRODUCTION


The Syrian Arab Republic is a new entity; the area known as Syria has been a center of many civilizations and cultures. Damascus was a seat of Christianity until the seventh century A.D., when the conquering armies of Islam made it the heart of a great empire. Western domination brought Western influence and ideas, inspiring in Syria a new kind of Arab nationalism deeply shaped by Islam and conceiving of the whole of the Middle East as forming one unitary Arab state. The conflict between this pan-Arab nationalism which transcends borders and denies the existence of separate nation-states, and Syria’s modem need to define itself as a nation and to draw its many and diverse communities together into a cohesive social and cultural entity has been at the core of this country’s many problems.

Syria, which had for centuries known no fixed borders and lacked a separate 1 or distinctive political identity or a strong centralized government was constituted as an independent republic in 1946. For decades, its government was marked by instability, frequent purges and many changes in the political system. The fragility of its regimes brought about the intervention of the military in political life and culminated in Syria’s decision to give up its independent existence in a merger with Egypt in 1958. The failure of this union led to the rise to power of the Ba’th (the Arab Renaissance) party and the Ba'th has ruled Syria ever since.

Ba’thist rule is based on an alliance of the military with the party organization and is exemplified in the person of President Hafez al-Assad, who is both an army officer and the head of the party. But the Ba’th’s radical ideology, which has led to fhe nationalization of Syria’s few industries and the redistribution of much of the arable land from the landowners to the peasants, has also added deep-seated problems to the Syrian polity. In a country where 90% of the population is Muslim, Ba’thist doctrine, formulated by Syrian Christian intellectuals, preaches secularism as well as radicalism and pan-Arabism' The secularist trend was reflected in the country’s provisional constitution of 1969 and led to serious riots and disaffection. Amended in 1971, the constitution now includes the provisions that the president of the republic must be a Muslim and that Islamic jurisprudence is a principal source of legislation. The constitution—like Syrian society—is thus an amalgam of modem secular tendencies, superficial radical reforms and conservative Islamic values and relationships.

President Assad, who rose to power via a coup in 1970, has given Syria its most continuous government in decades, but the regime’s stability is overshadowed by the continued cleavages and tensions within Syrian society. Assad is a member of the ‘Alawite community which, though Muslim, is not Sunni Muslim and also not, strictly speaking, Arab. Although he has made efforts to attach the various ethnic communities to his regime, he must still solve the problem of his acceptance by the Sunni Muslim majority and he has not yet overcome their dislike of the dominant position that the ‘ Alawites hold in the army and the government.

Assad’s efforts to make his regime acceptable has been based primarily on hostility toward Israel, Syria’s southern neighbor, which came into being only some two years after Syria itself became an independent entity, and which is the only non-Muslim state in the region. Syria’s attitude toward Israel has produced three wars and constant bloodshed along the long common border it shares with that country. For Syria, these wars have resulted in defeat and dislocation.
The war of October 1973, for example, led to heavy casualties and the loss of additional territory to that lost in the war of 1967, yet Ba’thist pan-Arabism and the national xenophobia have contributed to the persistence of this country’s war psychosis. What Syria could not achieve on the battlefield has been continued in the field of diplomacy and at U.N. forums. As it has often reminded its brother Arab states, it adheres to the principles of the Khartoum resolution of 1967: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel. The war against Zionism is inscribed in the preamble of the Syrian constitution and is an integral part of it.

Syria’s position in the Arab world, in which it has struggled to gain legitimacy, has been closely linked to its domestic politics. Its ideology, which advocates the overthrow of existing Arab regimes—through subversion if need be—has not sat well with the existing Arab leaders. A weak and passive partner in inter-Arab politics for twenty years, Syria began to challenge Egypt’s position as a center of radical politics in the 1960s. It was not until the early 1970s that President Assad succeeded in winning for Syria an increasingly important position in inter-Arab relations.

He has achieved this goal through his championship of the Palestinian organizations, not alone in the struggle against Israel but also in order to wrest ascendancy from Egypt. He has also managed to cement relations with Jordan, ending, however temporarily, a state of hostility that existed (between periods of wartime cooperation against Israel) for some thirty years. Syria’s quarrel with Iraq over the Euphrates waters—essential to both countries’ agriculture— remains unsettled but Assad’s intervention in the Lebanese civil war (Syria still thinks of Lebanon as a part of Syria, as it was in the days of the Ottoman Empire) has greatly enhanced his position. Together with his stance of seeming “moderation” there, it has offered him a role as the possible leader of the northern tier of Arab states—the Fertile Crescent.

To bolster its regime, the Ba‘th introduced the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc countries into Syria—a policy which Assad has continued and which has delivered to Syria massive quantities of sophisticated arms, Soviet technicians and Soviet economic assistance. Syria-Soviet relations are not free from tensions but the post-1970 crisis in Soviet-Egyptian relations has made that state extremely valuable to the Soviet Union as its only more or less reliable client in the Middle East.

Although, after the war of 1973, Syria made overtures to the United States—and the United States made overtures to Syria—it still continues to look mainly to the Soviet Union for its military and political support.

The Syrian Arab Republic may wish to play a leading role in the Arab world but it has few real assets. Its present policies, however, though they appear to be successful, are unlikely to help Syria realize its extravagant ambitions or to safeguard the country from serious military and political dangers in the future.



I

Syria, Past and Present

Syria Under Islamic and Ottoman Rule


From earliest times, the area known as Syria was populated by successive waves of Semitic peoples. The Hittites, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Macedonian Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines have also left their imprint on this area, as have all the nomadic tribes wandering across the Middle East. Damascus may be the oldest capital city in the world. The town of Aleppo may be even older.

In A.D. 632, some six years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the conquering armies of the newly-created power of Islam reached through Palestine toward Syria. In Syria, the various populations who shared a Semitic language and culture and adhered in the main to the Monophysite faith1 were "hostile to their Greek-speaking Orthodox Byzantine rulers and therefore did little to oppose the invading Muslims, from whom they hoped to gain a greater measure of freedom. The Muslims defeated the Byzantine forces and in 636 virtually secured possession of all Syria. The Umayyad 2 dynasty which ruled Syria from 661-750 divided the area into four military districts (Damascus, Homs, Urdin [Jordan] and Palestine). Arabic became the official language and Syria itself became the heart of a great Muslim empire.

The new order in Syria, which represented the domination of a military caste of Muslim Arab warriors governing a non-Muslim, non-Arab subject people who had to pay tribute to the regime, changed gradually as Islam spread among the people. In theory, conversion to Islam meant, for the non-Arab converts (Mawla, pi. Mawali) full social and economic equality with  the ruling caste, but in practice it was not enough to be a Muslim—one had to be an Arab as well. Their enforced inferiority created general discontent among the Mawali. It expressed itself in an appeal to the universal character of Islam, taking the form of religious heresies which grew more and more widespread.

In A.D. 750, with the accession of the Abbasid 2 dynasty, the center of the empire was transferred to Iraq while Syria became a mere province of that empire. In the ninth century, Syria became the object of dispute between Egypt ...

1. Monophysite doctrine believes that Christ has only one. divine, nature while the Orthodox believe that Christ" has a double nature, divine and human. The Ethiopian, Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Jacobite Churches are Monophysite.
2. The House of Umayya was a branch of the House of Quraysh—Mecca's pre-Islamic keepers of the sanctuary and the mediators between groups of tribes. The Prophet Muhammad belonged to another branch of the House of Quraysh.
3. A branch of the House of Hashim, descended from the Prophet’s uncle, which wrested the empire from the Umayyads.




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