The History of Syrian Leadership and Its Impact on the State of a Country

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Syria became one of the most discussed and controversial countries in the world in recent years due to its ongoing armed conflict. Millions of Syrians escaped from their homeland looking for a shelter and a better future abroad causing internal conflicts in highly developed countries at the same time. This precarious situation drew significant attention to Syria and made millions of people learn more about this country.

The official name of Syria is the Syrian Arab Republic. Syria is located in Western Asia with the capital in Damascus. It borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq. From the west Syria is washed by the Mediterranean Sea. The climate of the country is hot but uneven, as it is humid and flourishing in the west near the sea and dry in the rest of country. The terrain is also diverse, as there are mountains in the coastal region and desert stretches along the rest of the territory. Syria is rich in mineral resources and oil. The main water artery in Syria is the Euphrates River. The official language in Syria is Arabic, but national minorities living on the territory also speak Kurdish, Armenian, Turkic, and Syriac. (Collelo, 1988, pp. 13-14). The currency that is used in Syria is the Syrian pound.

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The beginning of Syrian history dates back to the 24th century BC. Ebla, an ancient Syrian city found near modern Tell Mardikh, turned out to be a cradle of cultural heritage and one of the most powerful kingdoms on the territory of present Syria. Ancient tablets with written Sumerian words and their equivalents in Eblaite, which are known to be the first dictionaries in the history of humankind, were found on the place of the ancient city. According to found Eblaite texts, Ebla was an agricultural kingdom with centralized bureaucracy, with a workforce consisting of artisans and laborers, and peaceful mutually beneficial relations with other nationalities. (Bryce, 2014, pp. 14-15). However, this prosperous era ended with the destruction of the city by an Akkadian king and further territory occupation by the Amorites, Hittites, Mittani, Egyptians, Assyrians, Aramaeans, and Neo-Babylonian Empires turning this area into a battle field for conquerors claiming their rights for the land. Later, this territory became a part of Persian Empire ruled by Cyrus the Great, Seleucid Empire (330-64 BC), and Roman province eventually (Bryce, 2014, pp. 145-221).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire established its rule over Syrian territory, which, however, did not last, as a Muslim army conquered Syria and turned it into the center of the Islamic world in 637 AD. The era of Syrian prosperity ended in 750 AD, after the relocation of this center to Baghdad. The decay and volatility enabled the Ottoman Empire to invade Syrian territory in 1516 and exercise control there for 400 years ('Syria', 2017). In 1922, the Ottoman Empire was destroyed and the territory of Syria became the free Kingdom of Syria under king Faisal in 1919. This brief period of Syrian independence ended with the refusal of European countries to recognize the kingdom and becoming subordinated to France due to the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1920. France imposed its own rule and governed religion, economy, language, and other aspects of life of the population. Since the rise of Kingdom of Syria, Syrians never gave up their aspirations and efforts to become free again. Their revolts in 1925-1927 are famously known as the Great Syrian Revolts. As a result of these unrests, France agreed to negotiate the treaty of independence with Syria in 1936, but its terms did not grant absolute freedom to Syria (Collelo, 1988, pp. 18-24).

World War II and Syrian nationalists' pressure significantly weakened France, but it still tried to hold on to the territory and bombed the rebellious cities. Only the threat of Britain made France leave Syria alone. French retreat led to the proclamation of Syrian independence in 1946. Independence did not improve the lives of Syrians, as different religious and national minorities began competing for the dominance over the territory. The first president of independent Syria was Quwatli, but his presidency did not bring any stability or prosperity. The next president, Zaim, whose ambitious plans for standard-of-living improvement remained just a plan due to the lack of budget, was trialed and executed in 1949. After that, Syria found itself under the dictatorship of Colonel Adib Shishakli whose actions led to revolts among the population in 1953-1954. In 1958, Syria and Egypt united into the United Arab Republic, which was completely run by Egyptian government under Nasser. It caused a deep resentment among Syrians and compelled them to secede in 1961. These events caused the revival of the Syrian Baath Party that came to power after the revolt in 1963. Its government was characterized with overall nationalization of main industries in the beginning. Over time, however, the party changed its course and started the process of private entrepreneurship stimulation under the command of Hafez al-Assad (Collelo, 1988, pp. 25-48).

The successor and son of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, proved to be a ruthless and violent leader supporting and financing terrorism (Levitt, 2002). His politics left millions of Syrians without basic rights and freedoms under his tyranny. Successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia known as 'Arab Spring' empowered Syrians to strive for their rights and try to oppose Assad's dictatorship. It all started with peaceful demonstration that ended with a shooting by Assad's troops. Tens and hundreds of unarmed protesters were killed (Slackman, 2011). This act of violence propelled the wave of anger among the population giving rise to ongoing Civil War between the Assad regime and Free Syrian Army and being one of the worst humanitarian crisis in history. In spite of there being a war inside the country, other nations are also involved into the conflict. The United States supports the Free Syrian Army, while Russia aids the Assad's regime. According to Rahman-Jones (2017), Vladimir Putin assists Assad because he pursues personal interests in Syria, such as showing Russian strength, weapon, and influence in Asia. Vanand Meliksetian (2018) described the true reason of fierce fighting for Eastern Syria. This region is oil-rich, which means that it is strategically vital for Assad to conquer this territory and regain economic power. According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (2018), the Civil War took lives of about 560 thousand of people, but it is clear that the number of victims will increase.

Syria has a long rich history dating back to the time of beginning of civilizations. Its territory, even despite having great climate conditions, soil, and natural resources, was being torn apart by neighboring nationalities for thousands of years. Even the creation of own state did not bring peace to this area, as more and more conflicts and uprisings occurred there. The abundance of natural resources, particularly oil, makes Syria a target for most powerful countries striving for free access to oil but covering it with religious or political belief. It means that even after the end of Syrian Civil War, the fight for rich territories will not end causing more and more deaths instead.

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