Syria in the 1940’s and 1950’s

By | December 17, 2021

In continuing to be tormented by a chronic crisis, characterized by coups d’état and abrupt changes in domestic and foreign politics, the Syria presents itself in the last decade with a particularly agitated political landscape. Following the first general elections (July 1947) the “national bloc” had the majority, whose leader Shukri el-Kuwatli, former head of state, was re-elected president of the republic in April 1948. The opposition, fierce and turbulent, led by the Syrian National Party and the People’s Party, exploiting the discontent caused by the conduct of the war against Israel, it fomented unrest and continuous unrest, until in December 1948 a revolutionary movement forced the government to resign. Public order was ensured by Colonel Husni Zaim, that on March 30, 1949 he carried out a new coup d’état, establishing a Kemalist type dictatorship, strove to follow a pro-Western directive in foreign policy and renounced the plan of “Greater Syria”, loosening relations with Jordan and Iraq. For this, and also for the inordinate ambitions of which he showed and for his dictatorial behavior, public opinion abandoned him. On August 14, 1949, Zaim and his prime minister were executed following a coup organized by Colonel Sami Hinnawi. When order was restored, the latter called for new elections for a constituent assembly in November 1949. The People’s Party won a relative majority, Hashim el-Atassi was appointed provisional president and, consequently, there was an abrupt change in foreign policy, with a rapprochement with Iraq and Jordan. This provoked opposition from the army; on 2 December the military, led by Lieutenant Colonel Adib el-Shishakli, deposed Hinnawi. For Syria 2019, please check

From the end of 1949 to 1951 the country was ruled by a government of the People’s Party, almost by delegation from the army, and a position of isolationist neutralism was adopted in foreign policy. On November 29, 1951 Shishakli made a new coup, breaking with the populists, and there was a new dictatorship, which, by virtue of the new constitution of 1953, was transformed into a presidential regime, with Shishakli as president. The new government took more liberal measures to appease the opposition; but it was now the army that rebelled (February 1954) and forced Shishakli to flee. The populists took over the government. The elections of September 1954 saw the affirmation of the independents and pro-Western populists and the new government made a foreign policy of independence from the Baghdād pact as well as from the Arab League, but of rapprochement with Turkey and Iraq. The cabinet with a nationalist majority set up on February 12, 1955, sided in favor of the Arab League and against the Baghdād Pact. As President Atassi’s term expired, the fight for the election was won, with the support of pro-Egyptian populists, by former president Kuwatli, who had taken refuge in Egypt. From this moment, the process of integration of Syria with Egypt begins. On October 20, 1955, a mutual defense pact was signed with Egypt. In July 1956 a government committee was set up for the federation with Egypt and to conclude an economic agreement with the same country; in October a single Syrian-Jordanian-Egyptian military command was created; in November diplomatic relations with France were broken and England, and the Syrian army was placed under Egyptian command; in September 1957 an economic unity agreement was concluded with Egypt and the following month Egyptian troops landed in Syria. Finally, in November, the two Syrian and Egyptian parliaments adopted a motion calling for the formation of a federation between the two states, whose union was finalized on February 5, 1958, with a new constitution approved by the Egyptian and Syrian parliaments. Thus was born the United Arab Republic, presided over by general an-Nāṣir, in which the Syria became, like Egypt, an administrative region of the new state.

The coexistence of the Syria in the new organism of the RAU (see united Arab, republic, in this App.) was not easy and soon a lively growing unease made its way. Instead of a confident integration, there was a clear subordination of Damascus to Cairo, while power was concentrated only in the hands of men who were determined to do anything, first of all Colonel Serraj, head of the Syrian local government. The reforms decided by an-Nāṣir with the nationalization of large companies, the crisis in agricultural production as a result of the prolonged drought, the increase in taxation, land reform, etc. contributed to this. In order to crush any possible fracture and to overcome discontent, on 18 August 1961 from Cairo it was decided to abolish local governments and the constitution of a single government for the whole RAU. Shortly afterwards Serraj was completely excluded from political life, but with this the dependence of the Syria on Egypt was accentuated. At this point the widespread discontent found an element of rupture in the military leaders, who on 28 September 1961 seized power, blocked an attack by Egyptian paratroopers in the bud, and, with a bloodless coup, put an end to the union of the Syria and Egypt in the RAU: an-Nāṣir could not help but accept the fait accompli while immediately after the military passed power, as head of the government, to Mamun Kuzbari. The new regime was immediately recognized by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq; on 7 October by the USSR (and therefore by various “popular democracies”), on 10 October 1961 by the United States, and subsequently by the others, while the Syria reoccupied its autonomous seat in the N. U.; she was also readmitted to the Arab League and on 15 November. 1961 a provisional constitution was given.

Syria in the 1940's and 1950's