1961-1970 since 1990

Syria, 1970-1990

Administration In 1970 Hafez el Assad in a coup d'etat ousted Nur al-Din al-Atasi and Salah Jadid. Assad was elected president in 1971; in 1973 he had the Syrian constitution changed, the condition that Syria's president must be a Muslim dropped (Assad is an Alawite; while the Alawites regard themselves Muslims, they are not regarded as such by Sunni and Shi'a Muslims). Assad had himself reelected president repeatedly, until his death in 2000. The Baath party is the only legal party in Syria. The state of emergency, in place since 1963, allows the authoritarian regime bypassing the democratic process.

Domestic Policies Baath ideology, while accepting Islamic tradition, aims at the establishment of a secular socialist state. The constitutional amendment of 1973 alienated parts of the Muslim community and caused riots. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in the government, because of her close alliance with the USSR, being criticized by ulama. In 1980 Muslim riots were reported in Aleppo, Hama and Homs; the government responded with repression, the worst case being the Hama Massacre of 1982. The Muslim brotherhood, blamed for a failed assassination attempt on Assad in 1980 and for organizing the revolt in Hama in 1982, was banned.

Foreign Policy During the Cold War, Syria was perceived to be in the Soviet camp; the USSR was Syria's major arms supplier. Traditional rivalry with the Baath administration in Iraq continued. Syria supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), was suspicious of the Republic of Turkey (and her water management program on the upper Euphrates and Tigris, since 1965), supported the PKK. In 1976 Syria, with a mandate by the Arab League, intervened in the Lebanon Civil War, only to withdraw her forces in 2006.
In 1973 Syria, in alliance with Egypt, fought Israel in the Yom Kippur War. When, after the war, Egypt entered into negotiations and later established diplomatic relations with Israel (1978), Syria cut diplomatic relations with Egypt. Syrian relations with the PLO were poor, as Syria controls organizations of Palestinians residing in Syria. In 1983 the Mufti of Jerusalem even called for the assassination of Hafez el-Assad.
Syria played a prominent role in the domestic policy of Lebanon since 1976. The Lebanese Civil War ended in 1991.

The Economy . In 1970, Syria produced 0.62 million metric tons of wheat, in 1990 2.07 million (IHS p.202). Consumer prices in Syria were stable in 1970-1973, rose moderately until 1984, from when on inflation picked up, reaching 35-40 % in 1986-1988, then again to decline to a moderate rate (IHS pp.960-961).

Ethnic Minorities . Syria's Kurdish minority was exposed to a policy of Arabization.

Social History . The census of 1970 established a population of 6.3 million. The population of 1990 was estimated at 12.1 million.

Timeline, from BBC News
Article Economy of Syria
Politics of Syria, Baath Party Rule under Hafez al Assad, 1970-2000, Syrian Occupation of Lebanon, Hafez al Assad, Hama Massacre, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Syria
Encyclopedia of the Orient : Syria; Syrian Encyclopedia, from Damascus Online

Political Resources on the Net : Syria
CASCON Case MEW : Middle East War 1973, by L.P. Bloomfield, L. Moulton
DOCUMENTS Historical Population Statistics : Syria, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
Information by Country : Syria, from U.S. Committee for Refugees, 5 reports 1999-2000
Estimates of Death Toll due to political suppression, 1971-2000, posted by Matthew White, scroll down for Syria
REFERENCE Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria. The History of an Ambition, Oxford : UP 1990, KMLA Lib.Sign. 956 P665g
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol.28, pp.361-374 Article Syria. KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862h v.28
David Commins, Historical Dictionary of Syria, Lanham Md : Scarecrow 1996, 299 pp. [G]
Article : Syria, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1971 pp.696-697, 1972 p.654, 1973 pp.646-647, 1974 pp.644-646, 1975 pp.652-653, 1976 pp.641-642, 1977 pp.642-643, 1978 pp.655-656, 1979 pp.648-649, 1980 pp.648-649, 1981 pp.643-644, 1982 pp.649-650, 1983 pp.645-646, 1984 pp.645-647, 1985 pp.496, 789, 1986 pp.490-491, 788, 1987 pp.461, 756, 1988 pp.418-419, 708, 1989 pp.418-419, 708, 1990 pp.435-436, 724 [G]
Article : Syria, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1975-1976 pp.1370-1363, 1976-1977 pp.1357-1361, 1978-1979 pp.1154-1158, 1979-1980 pp.1163-1167, 1980-1981 pp.1159-1163, 1981-1982 pp.1165-1169, 1983-1984 pp.1164-1167, 1984-1985 pp.1160-1163, 1985-1986 pp.1161-1164, 1986-1987 pp.1160-1163, 1987-1988 pp.1164-1167, 1988-1989 pp.1168-1171, 1989-1990 pp.1175-1178, 1990-1991 pp.1175-1178 [G]
Article : Syria, in : The World in Figures 1st ed. 1976 pp.198-199, 2nd ed. 1978 pp.198-199, 4th ed. 1984 pp.198-199 [G]
Article : Syria, in : Americana Annual 1971 p.656, 1972 p.656, 1973 p.655, 1974 pp.573-575, 1976 pp.529-531, 1988 p.508, 1989 p.516, 1990 p.505 [G]
Entry : Syria, in : Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1976 pp.569-574 (Patricia Mihaly), 1980 pp.436-440 (P.M.) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 28th 2006, last revised on June 20th 2007

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