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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Syria in the Arab Spring

Nadene Goldfoot
Who does Syria think they are, anyway?  The city, Ebla in the northern area of Syria goes back to 3,000 BCE.  They traded with Sumer and Akkad.  The Pharaoh of Egypt sent them gifts.  Ebla was the center of the oldest semitic language.  It became the nation of the Amorites mentioned in the bible.  Later it was conquered by the Hittites and occupied by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Persians Alexander the Great, Seleucids, Romans and finally the Byzantines.  Damascus became a capital. 

In 83 BCE Teyranes the Great King of Armenia conquered the land but not for long.  By 64 BCE it was a Roman Province and finally became part of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th to 20th Century along with Palestine.  Thus stepped in France who was given the mandate of caring for Syria and Lebanon from WWI when the Ottoman Empire fell along with Germany.  The USA recognized the mandate in 1924.  Faysal was ousted in 1920 and from then on there were riots, uprisings and war.  The Syrians wanted independence and revolted in 1925.  With WWII approaching, the semi-independence of Syria and Lebanon ended. 

Syria was created a state in April 1946, after WWII.  It has a parliamentary Republic but is not a Democracy.  Syria saw many coups from 1949 to 1970.  From 1962 to 2011 they have had to have Emergency Law.  Bashar al-Assad is the ruler who took over from his father, Hafez al-Assad. 

From 1948-67 Damascus controlled the Golan Heights which it used as a military stronghold from which its troops shot at Israeli civiilians in the Huleh Valley below.  It was like shooting ducks at the carnival.  Their gun fired into Israeli farms below.  This forced children on kibbutzxim to sleep in bomb shelters.  Roads in northern Israel were not passable until they were probed by mine-detection vehicles.  In 1966 a child was blown to pieces by a mine while playing football near the Lebanon border.  Attacks were carried out by Yasir Arafat's Fatah which operated from Syria. 

Of course Israel protested many times to the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, who was in charge of ceasefire but it was Israel who got condemned by them when it had to retaliate after these attacks as nobody else was stopping the sniping.  When Israel had demanded a stopping of Fatah the Syrians, who allowed it, retorted that it wasn't their job to stop them but to encourage and strengthen them.  As one historian wrote, "there was an open season for killing Israelis on their own territory."

The Six-Day War began and put a stop to much of this as well as gave Israel land such as the Golan Heights.  It had started on June 9, 1967 and by late afternoon, June 10th, Israel was in complete control of the plateau.  Finally the shooting gallery of 19 years came to an end.  Never did the international community act against these Syrian aggressors. 

In 2007 Israel had to fly over Syria and bomb their clandestine nuclear reactor.  Any atomic warfare would have been used on Israel and the USA.  So much for the watchdog, IAEA. 

Syria and Lebanon's history has been continuous religious rivalries and wars for a long time.  Muslims, Christians and Druze fought each other. Also, different sects within Islam and Christianity fought among themselves.  Today there are 74% Sunni and 13% Shia and Alawite Muslims, 10% Christians and 3% Druze living there. 

Today the people of Syria are trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.  Lebanon is still his ally and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a Hezbollah terrorist leader stands behind him.  He is very much against his overthrow as he thinks it would just suit the USA and Israel's interests.  The bad guys stick together. 

Book: Myths and Facts, a concise record of the Arab-Israeli conflict by Mitchell G. Bard and Joel Himelfarb
Book: Battleground: Fact and fantasy in Palestine by Samuel Katz
Textbook: Middle East Past &I Present by Yahya Armajani and Thomas M. Ricks added 5/26/11
Note correction: I had Ebla spelled wrong:  I had it originally as Elba, which is an island Napolean was imprisoned on.  Thanks to a sharp historian, I have corrected it. 

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