Syria in the 1980’s

By | December 17, 2021

Quickly orienting itself in favor of the Iranian Islamic revolution, the Syria, despite the visit of Ṣaddām Ḥusayn to Damascus at the beginning of 1979, distanced itself more and more clearly from the Irāq, also because of the conflict that was looming between Baghdād and Teherān, and undertook to define a sort of radical understanding with the regimes of Libya and Iran. Likewise, the connection with Soviet politics continued (signing of the treaty of friendship and cooperation in Moscow on 8 October 1980 by Ḥ. Asad) which favored the increase of considerable war supplies. These facilitated the consolidation of the Syrian device in Lebanon (elimination in June 1981 of the observatory on Mount Sannin, installed by the Israelis with the support of the Phalangists). For Syria 2010, please check

With Israel, on the other hand, the tension began to flare up since December 1981 due to its decision to officially annex the Golan area occupied in 1967; in the area, where numerous settlements had been established, the protest of the local Druze population against Tel Aviv was prolonged. The most dramatic crisis, however, came with the ” Peace in Galilee ” operation, which in June 1982 led the Israelis to attack the Syrian units of the Arab Dissuasion Forces (FAD) in the Biqā valley and Beirut. Especially the Syrian armored vehicles supported a valid resistance, in particular by preventing the Beirut-Damascus highway from being blocked. The strong Syrian commitment in Lebanon against Israel was reflected in the Fez (September) summit of the Arab League, who approved the continuation of the military presence of the Syria; this nullified the French and American attempts to transform their contingents within the Multinational Force into an instrument for restoring order in the country, strengthened the democratic and Muslim-inspired alignment there, and caused the separate peace with Israel signed by the President A. Ǧumayyil (Gemayel) on May 17, 1983 and abrogated on March 6, 1984. This commitment also favored, against the tendency towards accommodation by Y. ῾Arafāt, the split between Abū Mūsā and Abū Ṣalih which contributed to reduce the presence of the PLO in the Lebanese area.

The firm and autonomous position of the Syria on the issue of Lebanon, in relations with the PLO and in the negotiations with the United States was accompanied on an internal level by a series of political and constitutional obligations: the 8th Congress of the Ba῾ṯ party (January 1985), the re-election of Asad to the presidency of the Republic (11 February), the subsequent formation of a coalition government once again expressed by the Progressive National Front, and the elections for the renewal of Parliament (10-11 January), which confirmed the hegemony of the Ba῾ṯ with 129 seats out of 195. Central to the activism of Damascus, however, remained the problem of Lebanon with the intention or of mediating between the parties (draft agreement with the Falange and the National Liberal Party of December 1985), or of prevent the success of the right that would have reopened the hypothesis of a hegemony up to Beirut of the Israelis, attested on the so-called “ security belt ” in the South (sending of troops to West Beirut and other key points in February 1987).

Evidence of Syrian flexibility, which never failed, was in any case the agreement with the United States (March 1988) to urge the convergence of the Lebanese political forces in the person of M. Ḍāḥir as candidate for the presidency of the Republic (understood that, however, did not go to port); Asad’s meeting with ῾Arafāt, who came to Damascus for the funeral of the PLO leader, Abū Ǧihāḍ, killed by the Israelis; and the willingness to comply with the indications of the Lebanese deputies gathered in October 1989 in Tā’if at the suggestion of the Arab League. After the suspension of the fighting between Iran and ῾Irāq, relations between Damascus and the more moderate Arab countries have also improved. The convergence with the United States for the election of the president of Lebanon was reconfirmed in November, both in the choice of R. Mu῾awwaḍ (later killed) and in that of I. Harawī, Syria sided against the Irāq in the Gulf crisis, sending a contingent of troops in support of Saudi Arabia into the sector. At the same time he obtained the green light (October 1990) to support Beirut in the elimination of the enclave controlled by the rebel general M. ῾Awn (Aoun), protected by Ṣaddām Ḥusayn.

Starting from the Madrid Conference of October 30-31, 1991, Syria took part in the various phases of the Arab-Israeli negotiation for the resolution of the dispute that began with the “six-day war” of June 1967. While maintaining the request for a complete recovery of the Golan territory occupied by the Israelis, Damascus has repeatedly reiterated its interest in developing the peace process with Israel, for example. on the occasion of the meeting in Geneva, January 16, 1994, between Asad and US President B. Clinton.

Syria in the 1980's