Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Syria


Figure 1.--

Syria was one of the Frontline Atab states which invaded Palestine in an effort to destroy Israel (1948). The Syrians also made some progress in the north, advancing into areas allocated to the Palestinians in the partition. Syrian control of the Golan Heights which for years was used to shell Israeali farmers aand families below it. Israel seized the Golan in the Six Days War (1967). Hafez Assad eventually came to power following a dizzying series of military coups that had made Syria the most unstable regime in the Middle East. Assad established stability. He also oversaw a country in which living standards declined to levels below that of many other Arab states. The Assads oversee a fragile state. They are members of the Allawi religious minority who Islamicists do not even consider to be Muslims. The country tht they rule is a coolection of potentially disparate minorities. The potential for domestic chaos is potentially similar to Iraq. The Muslim Brotherhood is a major threat to the regime. The Assad family appears to have created a dynasty. It commands the Ba'th Party, but there are many rivalries within the Ba'th that threaten the Assad family rule. Syria has intervened in neighboring Lebanon.

Ottoman Empire


World War I (1914-18)

Syria at the time of World War I was part of the Ottoman Empire. The end of Ottoman rule in Syria is tied up with the British offensive in Palestine and the Arab revolt. After inconclusive fighting, British General Allenby finally entered Jerusalem (December 8-9, 1917). This put the entire Ottoman position in the Levant in jepordy, but the demands of the Western Fronr in France made it impossible to followup on his victory immediately. Allenby finally received needed replacements, Indian troops. He prepared his final offensive against the Ottomans (September 18). Air supremecy left the Ottomon's blind as to where Allenby would strike. There was also a successful deception plan. The Battle of Meggido began with an attack along the Mediterranean coast (September 19-21). The attack opened a huge gap in the Ottoman right and Allenby pored his calvalry through that hole to rapidly exploit it. The whole Ottoman front collapsed. The Ottoman 8th Army was destroyed in the initial attack. The 4th and 7th Armies retreated north along the Jordan River. Allenby hotly persued them toward Damascus, hammering them with both calvalry and airpower (September 22-October 30, 1918). Sharif Husayn was the Ottoman appointee over the Hijaz, the most prestigious post in Islam. There was support in Syria among Arab nationalists for Husayn and his Hashimite family. Husayn and his sons launched the Arab revolt, supported by the British (June 5, 1916). They were assisted by the charismatic T.E. Lawrence. Faysal and the Arabs could not have defeated Ottomon troops on their own. TheBritish destruction of the Ottoman Army, however, created opportunities for Fayal to seize opwer in Syria. Faysal and his Arab Army, operating on the right of the Btitish Army, entered Damascus as a liberator. The Ottomans with their armies being destroyed in the field agreed to an armistice on Mudros, ending the fighting (October 30, 1918).

French Mandate

The League of Nations awarded a France a mandate to rule Syria (1922).

World War II (1939-45)

After the fall of France. French authorities in Syria, recognized the authority of Vichy Government. This included a military force totling about 40,000 Legioneers and Muslim soldiers backed by 90 tanks and prepared fortifications. Admiral Darlan provided logistical support to the Germans and Italians in efforts to support the Rashid Ali revolt in Iraq. This was a clear violation of Vichy's neutrality. Syria located in the Eastern Mediterranean was of some strastegic importance. The British feared that Vichy would allow the Luftwaffe to establish air bases in the country. This would have threatened the British position in Egypt as well as provided a jumping off point to seize the oil fields in Iraq. Churchill thus ordered Wavell after putting down the Iraqii Revolt to seize Syria (June 1941). Degualle assured Wavell that the Vichy garison would come over to the Free French with little resistance. They did not. The British and Free French forces entered Syria from Palestine. There was toughh fighting, but the Allies reached Damascus (June 17).

Independence (1946)

France attempted to retain control of Syria after the war. Nationalist groups staged a new revoly in 1945 and made continued occupation a costly undertaking. The French finally decided to evacuate (April 1946). A republican government that had formed during the mandate period seized control.

Syrian Jews

Jews have a long history in Syria. At the time of World War II there were about 30,000 Jews in Syria. There were three major Jewish communities in Syria. Kurdish-speaking Jews were centered in Kamishli. Jews of Spanish ancestry were concentrated in Aleppo. Jews desended from the original eastern Jewsish community lived primarily in Damascus and were referred to as the Must'arab. The status of these Jews changed radically with the dall of France (June 1940) and the formation of the Vichy Government. Syria and Lebenon (administered as part of Syria) were only two Vichy controlled colonies around the Mediterrean. Vichy also controlled Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Vichy's 1940 anti-Jewish regulations were extended to all these jurisdictions. The Vichy regulations involved a range of persecution and denial of of rights. Committees for Aryanization were established and the citzenship of French Jews was revoked. Camps were established abd many Jews internened. The pattern differed somewhat in each jurisdiction with Tunisia adopting particularly harsh regulsations in 1941. The Vichy High Commissioner in Syria, Henri Dentz, was planning to open concentration camps, but theBritish and Free French forces seized control of Syria before he was able to do so. [Stillman, p. 146.] As a result of Vicvhy support for the pro-Germanm Rashid Ali revolt in Iraq, British and Free French forces occupied Syria (June-July 1944). About 1,350 Syrian Jews were transported to Palestine in a complicated operation as part of the Aliyah effort. The Jewish community in Syria gained only a brief respite from persecution. After Syria achieved independence, the government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine. Other regulations followed as well as attacks on Jews.

Partition of Palestine (1948)

Syria was one of the Frontline Atab states which invaded Palestine in an effort to destroy Israel (1948). The Syrians also made some progress in the north, advancing into areas allocated to the Palestinians in the partition.

Confrontation with Israel

Syrian control of the Golan Heights which for years was used to shell Israeali farmers aand families below it.

Six Days War (1967)

Syria to support the Egyptianns and Jordanians began shelling Isreli settlments from the Golan Heights. Dyan ordered Israeli paratroopers to seize the Heights. They also destroyed Syrian border defenses leaving the road to Damascus wide open to them. For the first time since the 1948 War, the Jewish settlements in northern Israel were free from Syrian shelling.

Hafez Assad

Hafez Assad eventually came to power following a dizzying series of military coups that had made Syria the most unstable regime in the Middle East.

Assad Regime

Assad established stability. He also oversaw a country in which living standards declined to levels below that of many other Arab states. The Assads oversee a fragile state. They are members of the Allawi religious minority who Islamicists do not even consider to be Muslims. The country that they rule is a coolection of potentially disparate minorities. The potential for domestic chaos is potentially similar to Iraq. The Muslim Brotherhood is a major threat to the regime. The Assad family appears to have created a dynasty. It commands the Ba'th Party, but there are many rivalries within the Ba'th that threaten the Assad family rule. Assad family rule has been maintained by the Mukhabarata police state and repression within and confrontation with Israel and support of terrorism. A time-honored tradition of dictators is to create domestic foreign ememies, this was a mainstay of both the Communists and Fascists in the 20th century. The process is described masterfully in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The struggle with Israel provides the justifcation for Assad rule. The Assads thus have nor real reason to persue peace. The Assad family thus cannot make peace. Peace would end excuse for the Mukhabarat and rule through internal terror. Unlike most governments who seek to promote economic development and prosperity, the Assads seek primarily to perpetuate their family rule. There lack of ideology is notable. Initially Hafez Assad persued secular Arabism with a Socialist tinge. This has evolved today into a seeminly incongruent blend of pan-Arabism and Islamist extremism. What is most dififficult to understand about the Assads is that economic development is not a major goal and may actually weaken their hold on power. Living conditions in Syria have deteriorated in Syria. But the Assad family's control of the economy allows it to destribute benefits to the essential groups (the police and army) needed to perpetuate it in power. The Assads essentially run Syria as a Mafia-like state. The Assads and their retainers control the Syrian economy. Here they manage and allocate corruption instead of fighting it. This is the primary reason the economy is so moribund. The Assad's keep a huge cut of the economy and then dole out portions to friends and supporters. Major industries include drug smuggling and counterfeiting as well as labor exported to work in Lebanon because jobs arevnot available in Syria itself. [Rubin] Economic development and reform would create sectors outside of Assad family control and thus weaken its hold on power. Western observers calling for their governments to "engage" Syria in dialogue fail to understand the dynamic of the Syrian regime. With peace the Assads would have to explain while Syria is a failed, poverty stricken nation.

Lebanese Intervention

Syria has intervened in neighboring Lebanon.

Israeli-Lebanese War (2006)

Syria played a major role in the fighting that broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah attacked Israel for about a month. Hezbollah fired Syrian and Iranian made rockets into Israel. Hezbollah also used Russian arms supplied by Syria against Israeli tanks. Additional Iranian arms were delivered to Syrian bases and transported to Hezbollah forces. The international community appears to have attached little blame to Syria for its role in the War. Some foreign diplomats naively appealed to Syria to help controlarms smuggling.

Sources

Rubin, Barry. The Truth About Syria (Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).

Stillman, Norman. The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1991).







HBC








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Created: 12:45 AM 6/29/2007
Last updated: 12:45 AM 6/29/2007