Syria in the 1970’s

By | December 17, 2021

The union of Syria and Egypt dissolved in September 1961, its history in the following fifteen years is within the story of the al-Ba’th Party (founded in the 1940s by the Christian Syrian M. ‛Aflaq, with an Arab nationalist orientation and progressive reform program). In March 1963, with a military coup, the Ba‛ith came to power, headed by its leader Salāḥ Baiṭār, and began a left-wing policy (nationalization, self-management, agrarian reform); but the resistance of the stricken classes, and within the party itself the profound contrasts of currents, led to a new crisis in February 1966, which eliminated the more moderate elements of Bath, including its own theorist and founder, and installed the government its most radical and socialist wing (Ṣalāḥ Giadīd, al-Atāsī, Ḥāgiẓ Asad). Since then the Ba’th virtually split between the old moderate group and the new extremist exponents, so we can speak of a “neo-Ba‛th”, more decidedly oriented in a socialist and pro-Soviet course. The contrast between the two wings of the party, always formally unique, troubled the years between 1966 and 1970, adding to the problems of foreign policy (the war with Israel, for which see below). And this travail resulted in the umpteenth military blow in modern Syrian history, the assumption of power in November 1970 by gen. Ḥāfiẓ Asad, who remained at the helm of the Syrian state until today (winter 1979-80). assumption of power in November 1970 by the gen. Ḥāfiẓ Asad, who remained at the helm of the Syrian state until today (winter 1979-80). assumption of power in November 1970 by the gen. Ḥāfiẓ Asad, who remained at the helm of the Syrian state until today (winter 1979-80). For Syria 2013, please check

Asad, coming by birth from the Muslim minority sect of the ‛Alawites or Nusairi, had appeared on the political scene in 1966, with the progressive group of the neo-Ba‛th, from whose main exponents, however, a more markedly nationalistic and more cautious conception divided him. support for the Soviet leading state. In March 1971, his position was consolidated with the election as head of state and in 1973 a new constitution was passed by popular referendum, a modification of the 1969 one; according to which, legislative power is exercised by a people’s council of 173 members (of which 87 ba‛thists), while the president, head of the executive, has the right to appoint and dismiss the government. Lively contrasts aroused in the country, in this new constitution, the omission of the formula declaring the Islam, the official religion of the state, an indication of a tendency towards secularization that gen. Asad then tried to temper with other manifestations. The policy of the last Syrian leader and his group (largely of Alawite origin like him, to the discontent of other Muslim communities), is to support every effort towards superior Arab unity, which resulted in the Union in 1971. of the Arab republics (S., Egypt, Libya), a union that has remained on paper; but at the same time to promote in Syria the formation of a unitary ethno-political conscience and structure, overcoming the multiplicity of religious confessions and ethnic particularisms of the previous Ottoman and mandate history.

Element and almost symbol of this pursued national unity, within the reaffirmed pan-Arab solidarity, is the position of inflexible intransigence assumed and maintained by the Syria in the fight against Israel, which has conditioned this Arab state from almost its birth to independence. In the foreground in military activities, from the war of 1948 to that of 1967 and 1973, as in diplomatic and political action, Syria has tenaciously supported every sacrifice for the Arab and Palestinian cause. The dripping of Syrian hostilities on the border with Israel moved the latter, in the six-day war, to that deep attack on the Golan Heights, which have since been the most disputed battlefield between the two armies. The war of movement on that front stopped by the 1967 armistice, which led the Israelis to threaten Damascus, the major strategic ambition of the Syria in the 1973 offensive was to reassure itself of the possession of those advantageous lost positions, then partially regained and lost again in the last conflict until the tiring disengagement of 1974. One A new phase of Syrian foreign policy was ushered in by the Lebanese civil war, which broke out in the spring of 1975. The Syria, understandably, initially declared its support for the Muslim, progressive and pro-Palestinian faction; but as the conflict continued, it intervened directly in Lebanon (June 1976) with its own armed forces (to which other small Arab contingents were symbolically added), under the name of “deterrent force”. The military weight of this intervention first turned (1976-77) precisely against the Palestinians and their left Lebanese allies, in apparent contradiction with the initial Syrian attitude; but then (1978) hit the right-wing Christian forces in the opposite direction (the separatist “phalanxes”), showing that they were actually aiming at securing military control of the country, within the limits allowed by the opposite Israeli intervention in southern Lebanon. In the fall of 1978, this Syrian “deterrent force” was more or less partially replaced by Saudi Arab units; but it does not appear that the Syrian ones have so far been withdrawn.

The other more recent fact of Asad’s foreign policy, re-elected plebiscitantly as president on February 8, 1978, was (autumn 1978) a beginning of rapprochement with Iraq, where another branch of the common Ba‛ith Party is in power, for a long time. rival of the Syrian group. The two states had hitherto only associated in the common intransigence towards Israel, and in the rejection of Egyptian politics.

Syria in the 1970's