Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bush Smiles, Condi Frowns

by Jack Engelhard

Bush fooled everyone.

President George W. Bush finally liberated himself from Condoleezza Rice. There's no question that for most of his presidency he'd been DUI, driving under the influence of his secretary of state, but finally, last week in Israel, he came out and revealed himself to be a Zionist Christian. In fact, that's exactly what Palestinian Arabs are saying, and without gladness.

Bush mentioned the Palestinian Arabs only once in his 23-minute speech to the Knesset.

Seldom do we hear Israeli politicians so eloquent, so Biblical, in defense of Israel

Even before that, upon arrival, Bush mentioned the Jewish longing for Jerusalem, yes, Jerusalem, and if that didn't surprise the Israelis, it sure surprised Condi, who wants Jerusalem spliced in half. In the Knesset, Condi was a woman scorned when Bush said this: "The source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul."


The camera panned the audience and froze on Condi, or rather she froze, stunned in bitterness. She'd been betrayed. Seated next to her was her Israeli counterpart and fellow post-Zionist, Tzipi Livni, and though they've bonded, this wasn't a typical Girls Night Out. Condi was the picture of resentment.

Condi (it's no secret) equates Israel with the civil rights movement in America. It's Birmingham, Alabama all over again, only here they speak Hebrew. The Israelis, in her eyes, are the oppressors; the Arabs, the oppressed. She's had a final solution in place from the start, in which Israel was to be cut in half to make room for a "contiguous" Palestinian state.

She wanted this and she wanted this now. Bush, for the longest time, was of the same mind (or so it seemed), but last week he stopped being henpecked and became his own man, saying that peace between the Israelis and the Arabs would come eventually, perhaps in decades, but not today or tomorrow.

This was a departure from State Department policy, whose agenda has always been concession after concession for a Jew-free zone within the borders of Israel - immediately. Bush fooled everyone. He was more Jewish than the Jews. Seldom do we hear Israeli politicians so eloquent, so Biblical, in defense of Israel.

This troubled Condi, who now faced the question of what went wrong. Who got to him and who knew? Who knew he was so Jewish?

(As a lame-duck, his term soon to expire, Bush is "free at last!")

The Arab leadership dismissed the speech as a betrayal and speaking for them was Yossi Beilin, who cited the speech as "a shame and a scandal." Beilin would have preferred Bush to curse Israel, like the Balak of Scriptures, but instead, Bush blessed Israel like Bilaam who could not help himself but heap praise, as in: "How goodly thy tents O Jacob, thy dwelling places O Israel."

That, in fact, was Bush's speech in a nutshell. He departed from the State Department Playbook; instead, and remarkably, he harkened to the Torah's Book of Numbers.

Beilin is Jewish (or so we are told), but is post-Zionist, post-Jewish, post-Torah, a legislator who still believes that Oslo was a success. Surely, Beilin, Ehud Olmert, Livni and the rest of the "we can never give them enough" tribe will be operating behind the scenes to undo the "damage" done by Bush and restore Condi to her post as Israel's Rosa Parks, the lady who refused to sit in back of the bus.

So, finagling around her boss, the president, operating in stealth, we can expect Condi to come back for a final try at a Kumbaya Summer of Love. This means that Israel will be asked to give up more territory for "the sake of peace and security," no doubt modeled after Gaza, which endures as a sample of the rewards to be expected from painful concessions.

So this isn't over until it's over, or until the fat lady sings - or rather, the skinny lady with a decided chip on her shoulder against the Jewish People.

Yet - and yet - funny things happen on the Road to Jerusalem. Even donkeys speak and even curses turn into blessings.

Jack Engelhard's latest novel, the newsroom thriller The Bathsheba Deadline, is now ready in paperback and available from and other outlets. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel Indecent Proposal, which was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If I were prime minister of Israel.



By Joseph Farah


What can Israel do to achieve peace with its Middle East neighbors?I'm often asked that question by radio and TV interviewers. I won't tell you there are any easy answers – especially after so many strategic blunders by Israeli political leaders.

But there is a starting point. If I were prime minister of Israel, I would begin by explaining to the country's enemies and friends alike – all over the world – that practically everything they have heard about the conflict between Arabs and Israelis is wrong.

First, the Jews in Israel took no one's land.

When Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in the 19th century, he was greatly disappointed. He didn't see any people. He referred to it as a vast wasteland. The land we now know as Israel was practically deserted.

This is very important to understand. Because one of the biggest demands of so-called Arab "Palestinians" today is the "right of return." They contend that millions and millions of Arabs must be permitted to settle in Israel with full voting rights. Most of these people have never set foot in Israel before. Many of their parents never set foot in Israel before. A few had lived in the area in 1948 or 1967 and fled at the instructions of Arab invaders who pledged to "liberate" the land and annihilate the Jews.

But it is important to understand these are not refugees in the usual sense of the word. Instead, they are political pawns, exploited by Arab leaders who use the refugee issue to empower and enrich themselves.

It is a fraud, however, to say that these Arab Palestinians had lived in the region "from time immemorial," as the propagandists say. When "Palestine" was under the control of Muslims – right up through World War I – Arabs and Muslims showed little interest in the land, including Jerusalem.

A travel guide to Palestine and Syria, published in 1906 by Karl Baedeker, illustrates the fact that, even when the Islamic Ottoman Empire ruled the region, the Muslim population in Jerusalem was minimal. The book estimates the total population of the city at 60,000, of whom 7,000 were Muslims, 13,000 were Christians and 40,000 were Jews.

"The number of Jews has greatly risen in the last few decades, in spite of the fact that they are forbidden to immigrate or to possess landed property," the book states.

Even though the Jews were persecuted, still they came to Jerusalem and represented the overwhelming majority of the population as early as 1906. And even though Muslims today claim Jerusalem as the third holiest site in Islam, when the city was under Islamic rule, they had little interest in it.

As the Jews came, drained the swamps and made the deserts bloom, something interesting began to happen. Arabs followed. I don't blame them. They had good reason to come. They came for jobs. They came for prosperity. They came for freedom. And they came in large numbers.

Winston Churchill observed in 1939: "So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population."

This is the modern real history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At no time did the Jews uproot Arab families from their homes. When there were title deeds to be purchased, they bought them at inflated prices. When there were not, they worked the land so they could have a place to live without the persecution they faced throughout the world.

It's a great big lie that the Israelis displaced anyone – one of a series of lies and myths that have the world on the verge of committing yet another great injustice to the Jews.

But there's more to this story. It illustrates why non-Jews were not interested in the Holy Land until the Jews returned.

It's something I learned from a rabbi in Brooklyn by the name of Menachem Kohen, author of a book called "Prophecies for the Era of Muslim Terror."

Do you know why the Holy Land became a wasteland during the 1,800-year dispersion of the Jews that lasted until they returned in significant numbers beginning in the early 20th century?

Rabbi Kohen points out the land suffered an unprecedented, severe and inexplicable (by anything other than supernatural explanations) drought that lasted from the first century until the 20th – a period of 1,800 years coinciding with the forced dispersion of the Jews.

Kohen sees this as a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy found in the book of Deuteronomy – especially chapter 28:23-24.

"And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.

"The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed."

The climate in Israel dramatically changed during this 1,800-period – way before Al Gore discovered "global warming" or invented the Internet.

Before the Jews entered Canaan, it was described in the Bible as a land flowing with milk and honey. If you read what Israel's climate and natural landscape was like from the time Joshua crossed the Jordan right up until the time of Jesus, it sounds like a heavily forested land. There were amazing crops raised by the people who inhabited the land when the Jews arrived.

Sometimes I've wondered what happened to Israel to turn it into the dusty, arid land it was when the Jews came back in the 20th century. Until I read that prophecy in Deuteronomy, brought to my attention by Rabbi Kohen, I had no clue.

For 1,800 years, it hardly ever rained in Israel. This was the barren land discovered by Mark Twain. So-called "Palestine" was a wasteland – nobody lived there. There was no indigenous Arab population to speak of. It only came after the Jews came back.

Beginning in A.D. 70 and lasting until the early 1900s – about 660,000 days – no rain.

I decided to check this out as best I could and examined the rainfall data for 150 years in Israel beginning in the early 1800s and leading up to the 1960s. What I found was astonishing – increasing rainfall almost every single year – with the heaviest rainfall coming in and around 1948 and 1967.

Is this just a coincidence?

I'll be quite honest with you: I don't think so.

Nor do I think Israel can continue today to make bad stewardship decisions regarding the land bequeathed the Jews by God without consequences – serious consequences.

So, if I were prime minister of Israel – even just for one day – I'd start out giving the world a little history lesson. Maybe people would listen. Maybe they wouldn't. But it must be said. And if Israel won't tell that story, who will?

Joseph Farah is an American journalist of Arabic heritage.


Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His latest book is "Stop The Presses: The Inside Story of the New Media Revolution." He also edits the online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, in which he utilizes his sources developed over 30 years in the news business.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.







Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clear and present danger



By Martin Sherman


String of disastrous decisions shows that government is our greatest threat


It is difficult to grasp. It is even difficult to accept. But it is no longer possible to deny the almost unthinkable truth.


Today the People of Israel and the State of Israel are facing a "clear and present danger" that is far more immediate – and arguably no less lethal – than any of the perils brewing in Tehran: The government of Israel.


There are doubtless those who would protest that such a harsh accusation is outrageously unreasonable. But they must confront the facts. They must not be allowed to ignore the undeniable:


It was the government of Israel that threw caution to the wind and – in spite of dire warning as to the consequences - initiated the Oslo process which brought carnage to the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa


It was the government of Israel that – in spite of the dire warnings as to the consequences - foisted the disengagement plan on a misinformed, misled public and brought death and destruction to the civilian population in the South


It is the government of Israel that sits idly by while the forces of radical Islam in Gaza stockpile deadly ordnance, enhance the methods of their delivery, expand the ranks of their forces, and upgrade the level of their training - with the same indifferent impotence as it did with regard to the forces of radical Islam in the north.


And now, the government of Israel has, what can only be described as brazen impudence, to inform its citizens that it is planning to expose them to even more – and equally easily foreseeable - dangers by considering the transfer of the Golan to Syrian control.


Indeed, if even the upbeat assessments of the Israeli representatives at the renewed peace talks are accurate, the notion of withdrawing from the Golan is still unacceptably rash and wildly irresponsible. For Assad's current sincerity (or lack thereof) is entirely irrelevant in appraising the proposed evacuation.


What is vital is not whether he appears genuine in his intent to honor any agreement with Israel, but whether he will be able to do so over time in the future. As the Gaza experience shows, regime changes can no longer be dismissed as a mere figment of the right-wing's demented imagination, nor as nothing more than rejectionist scare tactics. They must be considered a tangible possibility and factored in the decision-making process by responsible government.


There is an array of crucial questions that have to be given convincing answers before the possibility of relinquishing any element of Israeli control in the Golan is even countenanced:


           What would be the Israeli response should Assad's minority regime be overthrown by radical successors who repudiate the agreement with Israel? In fact, the very agreement with the "Zionist entity" may be the catalyst for such a coup d'état - especially if Assad was sincere in honoring it!


           Moreover, still under the assumption of "Assadian" sincerity, if the Syrian ruler did indeed repudiate his ties with Tehran and the Hizbullah as demanded by Israel, who would keep him safe from vengeful Shi'ite wrath? The fate of Rafik Hariri in Beirut and Imad Mugniyah in Damascus demonstrate that in the Middle East neither high public office nor clandestine lifestyle can protect an intended victim from a determined assassin.


           However, an actual overthrow of the current regime is not essential. If internal pressures, mounted from rejectionist elements, force Assad to retract all or some of his obligations, what is Israel's contingency plan? What would be Israel's response to a gradual renewal of support for Hizbullah and ties with Iran?


           What if more clandestine Syrian "strategic" installations were uncovered? Could they be attacked - or only politely protested?


           What if "militants" established a presence in the demilitarized Golan – with or without the tacit collusion of Damascus - and rained rockets down on the north as happened in the south?


           How does Israel plan to operate the national water system should the Syrians expropriate the water resources of the Golan and prevent them from reaching the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee,) or pollute them before they do? Water experts have consistently warned that this would have catastrophic effects for the country's water supply.


           Media reports indicate that nearly all senior security officials - apart from the head of the Mossad - support the evacuation of the Golan, allegedly because otherwise the Syrians would be compelled to initiate hostilities. This leaves one to wonder why if the IDF cannot deter Syrian aggression with their capital Damascus in easy striking distance, how on earth will it do so when it is not?! Is there seriously any IDF general who believes that Israel's military position would be improved if the IDF deployed in the Galilee and the Hula valley rather than on Mt. Hermon and commanding ridges that control the approaches to Damascus?


           And then of course there's the cost: With Washington openly unenthusiastic about dealings with Damascus and burdened by huge military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, where will Israel find the tens of billions of dollars that such a measure would require? For example, for evacuation of towns, villages, and farms; for the relocation, rehabilitation and compensation of their residents; for the evacuation of the military camps and installations etc.


           What sacrifices should be made to allow such huge allocations of resources? Social welfare cuts? Slashes in university budgets? Cancellation of infrastructure projects? Withdrawal of medical services? How would the huge diversion of funds be possible with out siphoning off resources needed to deal with the Iranian threat?

 The Israeli public must insist on convincing answers to all these questions before any negotiations on the Golan are even contemplated; it must demand they be provided before even considering disturbing the status quo on the most tranquil border the country has had for three and a half decades.


In a democracy, the citizenry is ultimately responsible for its own fate - and the citizens of this country have learnt, by bitter experience, that they can no longer unconditionally entrust their security to their government's judgment. It has been found too faulty too often.


Martin Sherman


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


The Mystery of Hate.

by Yair Lapid


Hundreds of years of fighting, six and a half wars, billions of  dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands of victims, not including  the boy who laid down next to me on the rocky beach of lake Karon in  1982 and we both watched his guts spilling out. The helicopter took him  and until this day I do not know whether he is dead or survived. All  this, and one cannot figure it out.


And its not only what happened but all that did not happen -  hospitals that were never built, universities that were never opened,  roads that were never paved, the three years that were taken from  millions of teenagers for the sake of the army. And despite all the 

above, we still do not have the beginning of a clue to the mystery of  where it all started:


Why do they hate us so much?


I am not talking about the Palestinians this time. Their dispute with  us is intimate, focused, and it has a direct effect on their lives. Without getting into the "which side is right" question, it is obvious  that they have very personal reasons not to stand our presence here. We all know that eventually this is how it will be solved: in a personal  way, between them and us, with blood sweat and tears that will stain 

the pages of the agreement. Until then, it is a war that could at least  be understood, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means that are used to run it by.


It is the others. Those I cannot understand. Why does Hassan  Nasralla, along with tens of thousands of his supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, his country's destiny, to fight a country he  has never even seen, people he has never really met and an army that he  has no reason to fight?


Why do children in Iran, who can not even locate Israel on the map  (especially because it is so small), burn its flag in the city center and offer to commit suicide for its elimination? Why do Egyptian and  Jordanian intellectuals agitate the innocent and helpless against the peace agreements, even though they know that their failure will push  their countries 20 years back? Why are the Syrians willing to stay a pathetic and depressed third world country, for the dubious right to  finance terror organizations that will eventually threaten their own country's existence? Why do they hate us so much in Saudi-Arabia? In  Iraq? In Sudan? What have we done to them? How are we even relevant to  their lives? What do they know about us? Why do they hate us so much in  Afghanistan? They don't have anything to eat there, where do they get  the energy to hate?


This question has so many answers and yet it is a mystery. It is true  that it is a religious matter but even religious people make their choices. The Koran (along with the Shariaa - the Muslim parallel to the  Jewish Halacha) consists of thousands of laws, why is it that we occupy  them so much?


There are so many countries who gave them much better reasons to be  angry. We did not start the crusades, we did not rule them during the  colonial period, we never tried to convert them. The Mongolians, the  Seljuk, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the  British, they all conquered, ruined and plundered the whole region. We  did not even try, so how come we are the enemy?


And if it is identification with their Palestinians brothers then  where are the Saudi Arabian tractors building up the territories that  were evacuated? What happened to the Indonesian delegation building a  school in Gaza strip? Where are the Kuwaiti doctors with their modern  surgical equipment? There are so many ways to love your brothers, why  do they all prefer to help their brothers with hating?


Is it something that we do? Fifteen hundreds years of anti-Semitism  taught us - in the most painful way possible - that there is something  about us that irritates the world. So, we did the thing everyone  wanted: we got up and left. We have established our own tiny little  country, where we can irritate ourselves without interrupting others.  We didn't even ask a lot for it. Israel is spread on a smaller  territory than 2% of the territory of Saudi-Arabia, with no oil, no  minerals, without settling on another existing state's territory. Most  of the cities that were bombed this week were not plundered from  anyone. Nahariya, Afula, and Karmiel did not even exist until we  established them. The other katyusas landed on territories over which  no one ever questioned our right with regards to them. In Haifa there  were Jews already in the 3rd century BC and Tiberias was the place where the last Sanhedrin sat, so no one can claim we plundered them  from anyone.


However, the hatred continues. As if no other destiny is possible.  Active hatred, poisoned, unstoppable. Last Saturday the president of  Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called again "to act for the vanishing of  Israel"' as if we were bacteria. We got used to it so much that we  don't even ask why.


Israel does not hope and never did for Iran to vanish. As long as  they wanted, we had diplomatic relations with them. We do not have a  common border with them or even any bad memories. And still, the y are  willing to confront the whole western world, to risk a commercial  boycott, to hurt their own quality of life, to crush what's left of  their economy and all that for the right to passionately hate us.


I am trying to remember and cannot: have we ever done something to  them? When? How? Why did he say in his speech that "Israel is the main  problem of the Muslim world"? more than a billion people living in the  Muslim world, most of them in horrible conditions. They suffer from  hunger, poverty, ignorance, bloodshed that spreads from Kashmir to  Kurdistan, from dying Darfur to injured Bangladesh. How come we are the  main problem? How exactly are we in their way?


 I refuse to accept the argument that claims "that is just the way  they are". They said it about us so many times that we have learned to  accept this expression. There must be another reason, some dark secret  that because of it, the citizens of South Lebanon allow to rouse the  quiet border, to kidnap the soldiers of an army that has already  retreated from their territory, to turn their country into a wasteland  exactly at the time they finally escaped twenty years of disasters.


We got used to telling ourselves worn expressions - "it's the Iranian  influence", or "Syria is stirring behind the scenes" - but it is just  too easy explanation. Because what about them?


What about their thoughts?   What about their hopes, loves, ambitions and their dreams?  What about their children?


When they send their children to die, does it seem enough for them to  say that it was all worth while just because they hate us so much?



Yair Lapid


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



Monday, May 26, 2008

Syrian Arab Republic


Syria officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Southwest Asia, bordering Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea and the island of Cyprus to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north. The modern state of Syria was formerly a French mandate and attained independence in 1946, but can trace its roots to the fourth millennium BC. Its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire.

Since 1963 the country has been governed by the Baath Party; the head of state since 1970 has been a member of the Assad family. Syria's current president is Bashar al-Assad, son of Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000.

Modern Syria - the twenthieth century

Fighting on the side of Germany during World War I, plans by the Entente powers to dissolve the great Ottoman territory could now begin. Two allied diplomats (Frenchman François Georges-Picot and Briton Mark Sykes) secretly agreed, long before the end of the war, how to split the Ottoman Empire into several zones of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 set the fate of modern Southwest Asia for the coming century; providing France with the northern zone (Syria, with later the upcoming Lebanon), and the United Kingdom with the southern one (Jordan, Iraq and later, after renegotiations in 1917, Palestine - 'to secure daily transportation of troops from Haifa to Baghdad' - agreement n° 7). The two territories were only separated with a straight border line from Jordan to Iran. But early discoveries of oil in the region of Mosul just before to end of the war led to yet another negotiation with France in 1918 to cede this region to 'Zone B', or the British zone of influence. The borders between the 'Zone A' and 'Zone B' have not changed from 1918 to this date. In 1920, the two sides have been recognized internationally under mandate of the League of Nations by the two dominant countries; France and the United Kingdom.

French Mandate

In 1920, an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal I of the Hashemite family, who later became the King of Iraq. However, his rule over Syria ended after only a few months, following the clash between his Syrian Arab forces and regular French forces at the Battle of Maysalun. French troops occupied Syria later that year after the League of Nations put Syria under French mandate. Syria and France negotiated a treaty of independence in September of 1936, and Hashim al-Atassi, who was Prime Minister under King Faisal's brief reign, was the first president to be elected under a new constitution, effectively the first incarnation of the modern republic of Syria. However, the treaty never came into force because the French Legislature refused to ratify it. With the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Syria came under the control of the Vichy Government until the British and Free French occupied the country in July 1941. Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941 but it wasn't until January 1, 1944 that it was recognised as an independent republic. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalist groups and British pressure forced the French to evacuate their troops in April 1946, leaving the country in the hands of a republican government that had been formed during the mandate.

Instability and foreign relations: independence to 1967

Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions. In 1948, Syria was involved in the Arab-Israeli War, intervening on the side of the Arab invading armies who attempted to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel. The Syrian army was pressed out of most of the Israel area, but fortified their strongholds on the Golan Heights and managed to keep their old borders and some additional territory. However, the economy was strained by the influx of more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees.

The humiliating defeat suffered by the army was one of several trigger factors for Col. Husni al-Za'im's seizure of power in 1949, in what has been described as the first military coup d'état of the Arab world. This was soon followed by a new coup, by Col. Sami al-Hinnawi, who was then himself quickly deposed by Col. Adib Shishakli, all within the same year. After exercising influence behind the scenes for some time, dominating the ravaged parliamentary scene, Shishakli launched a second coup in 1951, entrenching his rule and eventually abolishing multipartyism altogether. Only when president Shishakli was himself overthrown in a 1954 coup, was the parliamentary system restored, but it was fundamentally undermined by continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military. By this time, civilian politics had been largely gutted of meaning, and power was increasingly concentrated in the military and security establishment, which had now proven itself to be the only force capable of seizing and -- perhaps -- keeping power. Parliamentary institutions remained weak and ineffectual, dominated by competing parties representing the landowning elites and various Sunni urban notables, while economy and politics were mismanaged, and little done to better the role of Syria's peasant majority. This, as well as the influence of Nasserism and other anti-colonial ideologies, created fertile ground for various Arab nationalist, Syrian nationalist and socialist movements, who represented disaffected elements of society, notably including the religious minorities, and demanded radical reform

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, after the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Israeli troops, and the intervention of British and French troops, martial law was declared in Syria. The November 1956 attacks on Iraqi pipelines were in retaliation for Iraq's acceptance into the Baghdad Pact. In early 1957 Iraq advised Egypt and Syria against a conceivable takeover of Jordan.

 In November 1956 Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union, providing a foothold for Communist influence within the government in exchange for planes, tanks, and other military equipment being sent to Syria. With this increase in the strength of Syrian military technology worried Turkey, as it seemed feasible that Syria might attempt to retake Iskenderun, a matter of dispute between Syria and Turkey. On the other hand, Syria and the U.S.S.R. accused Turkey of massing its troops at the Syrian border. During this standoff, Communists gained more control over the Syrian government and military. Only heated debates in the United Nations (of which Syria was an original member) lessened the threat of war.

Syria's political instability during the years after the 1954 coup, the parallelism of Syrian and Egyptian policies, and the appeal of Egyptian President Gamal Abdal Nasser's leadership in the wake of the Suez crisis created support in Syria for union with Egypt. On February 1, 1958, Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli and Nasser announced the merging of the two countries, creating the United Arab Republic, and all Syrian political parties, as well as the Communists therein, ceased overt activities.

 The union was not a success, however. Following a military coup on September 28, 1961, Syria seceded, reestablishing itself as the Syrian Arab Republic. Instability characterised the next 18 months, with various coups culminating on March 8, 1963, in the installation by leftist Syrian Army officers of the National Council of the Revolutionary Command (NCRC), a group of military and civilian officials who assumed control of all executive and legislative authority. The takeover was engineered by members of the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (Baath Party), which had been active in Syria and other Arab countries since the late 1940s. The new cabinet was dominated by Baath members.

The Baath takeover in Syria followed a Baath coup in Iraq the previous month. The new Syrian Government explored the possibility of federation with Egypt and with Baath-controlled Iraq. An agreement was concluded in Cairo on April 17, 1963, for a referendum on unity to be held in September 1963. However, serious disagreements among the parties soon developed, and the tripartite federation failed to materialize. Thereafter, the Baath regimes in Syria and Iraq began to work for bilateral unity. These plans foundered in November 1963, when the Baath regime in Iraq was overthrown. In May 1964, President Amin Hafiz of the NCRC promulgated a provisional constitution providing for a National Council of the Revolution (NCR), an appointed legislature composed of representatives of mass organizations—labour, peasant, and professional unions—a presidential council, in which executive power was vested, and a cabinet. On February 23, 1966, a group of army officers carried out a successful, intra-party coup, imprisoned President Hafiz, dissolved the cabinet and the NCR, abrogated the provisional constitution, and designated a regionalist, civilian Baath government on March 1. The coup leaders described it as a "rectification" of Baath Party principles.

Six Day War and Aftermath

The new government generally aligned itself with the hawkish Nasser in intra-Arab conflicts over how hard of a line to take against Israel. When Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Eilat-bound ships, the Baath regime supported the Egyptian leader, amassed troops in the strategic Golan Heights, and joined the clamor for the elimination of the Jewish state.


The Golan Heights are located in the southwestern part of the Syrian Arab Republic. The region is 1,850 square kilometres (714 sq mi), and includes mountains reaching an altitude of 2,880 metres (9,449 ft) above sea level. The heights dominate the plains below: The Jordan River, Lake Tiberias and the Hula Valley border the region on the west. [In 1920, the San Remo Conference of the Allied Powers (WWI) assigned to Great Britain a mandate to establish the Jewish national home on a territory covering Israel, Jordan and part of the Golan Heights.]

In the final days of the war, after having captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, Israel turned its attention to Syria. Israel invaded and captured the entire Golan Heights in under 48 hours. The war was widely viewed as a humiliating defeat for the radical socialist regime established by the 1966 coup.

Conflict developed between an extremist military wing and a more moderate civilian wing of the Baath Party. The 1970 retreat of Syrian forces sent to aid the PLO during the "Black September" hostilities with Jordan reflected this political disagreement within the ruling Baath leadership. By November 13, 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad was solidly established as the strongman of the regime, when he effected a bloodless military coup ("The Corrective Movement") which ousted his rival, Salah Jadid.

Baath Party rule under Hafez al-Assad, 1970–2000

Upon assuming power, Hafez al-Assad moved quickly to create an organizational infrastructure for his government and to consolidate control. The Provisional Regional Command of Assad's Arab Baath Socialist Party nominated a 173-member legislature, the People's Council, in which the Baath Party took 87 seats. The remaining seats were divided among "popular organizations" and other minor parties. In March 1971, the party held its regional congress and elected a new 21-member Regional Command headed by Assad. In the same month, a national referendum was held to confirm Assad as President for a 7-year term. In March 1972, to broaden the base of his government, Assad formed the National Progressive Front, a coalition of parties led by the Baath Party, and elections were held to establish local councils in each of Syria's 14 governorates. In March 1973, a new Syrian constitution went into effect followed shortly thereafter by parliamentary elections for the People's Council, the first such elections since 1962.

On October 6 1973, Syria and Egypt began the Yom Kippur War by staging a surprise attack against Israel (Arabs call it the "Ramadan War" or "October War" because Syria and Egypt attacked during Ramadan in the month of October). But despite the element of surprise, the war was first undecided , and then ended by a crushing Israeli victory. Israel continued to hold the Golan Heights. In early 1976, the Lebanese civil war was going poorly for the Maronite Christians. Syria sent 40,000 troops into the country to prevent them from being overrun, but soon became embroiled in the Lebanese Civil War, beginning the 30 year Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Many crimes in Lebanon were associated to the Syrians forces and intelligences: Kamal Jumblat, Bachir Gemayel, Moufti Hassan Khaled, Rene Mouawad,... Over the following 15 years of civil war, Syria fought both for control over Lebanon, and as an attempt to undermine Israel in southern Lebanon, through extensive use of Lebanese allies as proxy fighters. Many see the Syrian Army's presence in Lebanon as an occupation, especially following the end of the civil war in 1990, after the Syrian-sponsored Taif Agreement. Syria then remained in Lebanon until 2005, exerting a heavy-handed influence over Lebanese politics, that was deeply resented by many.

About one million Syrian workers came into Lebanon after the war ended to find jobs in the reconstruction of the country. Syrian workers were preferred over Palestinian and Lebanese workers because they could be paid lower wages, but some have argued that the Syrian government's encouragement of citizens entering its small and militarily dominated neighbour in search of work, was in fact an attempt at Syrian colonization of Lebanon. Now, the economies of Syria and Lebanon are completely interdependent. In 1994, under pressure from Damascus, the Lebanese government controversially granted citizenship to over 200,000 Syrian residents in the country.

 The authoritarian regime was not without its critics, though most were quickly murdered. A serious challenge arose in the late 1970s, however, from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, who reject the basic values of the secular Baath program and object to rule by the Alawis, whom they consider heretical. From 1976 until its suppression in 1982, the arch-conservative Muslim Brotherhood led an armed insurgency against the regime. In response to an attempted uprising by the brotherhood in February 1982, the government crushed the fundamentalist opposition centered in the city of Hama, leveling parts of the city with artillery fire and causing between 10.000 and 25.000 of dead and wounded. Since then, public manifestations of anti-regime activity have been very limited.

Hafiz al-Assad died on June 10, 2000, after 30 years in power. Immediately following al-Assad's death, the Parliament amended the constitution, reducing the mandatory minimum age of the President from 40 to 34. This allowed his son, Bashar al-Assad, to become legally eligible for nomination by the ruling Baath party. On July 10, 2000, Bashar al-Assad was elected President by referendum in which he ran unopposed, garnering 97.29% of the vote, according to Syrian Government statistics. He was inaugurated into office on July 17, 2000 for a 7-year term.


2008 Israeli Peace Talks

In April, 2008, President Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed in May, 2008, by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. As well as a peace treaty, the future of the Golan Heights is being discussed. President Assad was quoted in the The Guardian as telling the Qatari paper:

...there would be no direct negotiations with Israel until a new US president takes office. The US was the only party qualified to sponsor any direct talks, [President Assad] told the paper, but added that the Bush administration "does not have the vision or will for the peace process. It does not have anything."


To learn more about Syria:   Truth About Syria. (30-12-2007)