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Syria : Country Review
A country in the Middle East, Syria was occupied successively by Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, before finally coming under the control of the Ottoman Turks.
Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over Syria, and the French administered the area until granting it independence in 1946. Since independence, however, the country has lived through periods of political instability driven by the conflicting interests of various ethnic and religious groups.
Syria united with Egypt in 1958 to form the United Arab Republic, but the two entities separated in 1961 and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished.
In 1963 the Baath (Renaissance) party took control of the country, which rules to this day. Baath government has seen authoritarian rule at home and a strong anti-Israeli policy abroad, particularly under former President Hafez al-Assad.
In 1967 Syria lost the Golan Heights to the Israelis, while civil war in neighboring Lebanon allowed it to extend its political and military influence in the region. Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon since 1976 withdrew in April 2005.
Following the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, Syria underwent a degree of relaxation, and hundreds of political prisoners were released. But real political freedoms have not been granted, and the economy remains dominated by the state.
In 2011, Syria -- along with many of other countries -- was plagued with anti-government unrest in the "Arab Spring" sweeping the region. A harsh crackdown by the Assad regime led to global condemnation and saw Syria subject to unprecedented sanctions by the Arab League.
Like many of its neighbors in the Middle East, Syria’s economy depends heavily on oil production and export.
Since early 2011, anti-government protests have spread and escalated across the Arab world; Syria emerged as an addition to the list of countries experiencing unrest in March 2011. At first, protesters stopped short of demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, instead demanding greater political freedom and efforts to end corruption. For his part, President Assad announced he would advance a reform agenda, which would include lifting the emergency laws that had been in place for decades, and increased rights to the country's disenfranchised Kurdish population. These moves were aimed at quelling the rising climate of unrest gripping the country. But over time, as protests continued, and as the Assad regime carried out a hardline crackdown on dissent, tensions escalated between the government and the protesters.
In mid-2011, the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League respectively issued condemnations of the violence in Syria. As well, the United Nations Human Rights Council called for an independent inquiry into the violent crackdown on dissent. Meanwhile, global leaders were calling for President Assad to step down from power, given the brutality of the Syrian regime's crackdown on protesters. As of 2012, the bloody crackdown by the Assad regime on anti-government protesters was ongoing. In fact, the crackdown appeared to become more relentless in places such as Homs and Aleppo. Despite widespread condemnation from the West, a United Nations Security Resolution on the situation in Syria was subject to veto by Russia and China. A subsequent vote in the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned Syria for its brutal crackdown. A prevailing truce, brokered by the joint United Nations/Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, was established in the interests of preventing further bloodshed; however, it was revealed to be an exercise in theory rather than practice and eventually the United Nations monitoring mission ended in failure.
Syria has meanwhile been subject to sanctions by various countries and was sliding into pariah status in the international community. Assassinations, alleged massacres, geopolitical tensions with Turkey and Israel, and most recently, suspicions about the use of chemical weapons, have since mired the Syrian landscape. Indeed, it was increasingly clear that Syria had slipped into a state of civil war and was facing a devastating humanitarian crisis. That crisis reached new heights in August 2013 with claims that Syrian forces launched a chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Was this the clear sign that United States President Barack Obama's "red line" had definitively been crossed? And would the international community become more involved in the Syrian crisis? Would the ensuing chemical weapons deal with Syria between the United States and Russia quiet the war drums? Would Syria actually abide by its international obligations set forth in that agreement? The answers to those questions were yet to be determined. In the meanwhile, the highly anticipated peace summit in Geneva ended without yielding any productive results and the civil war in Syria raged on and on.
By mid-2014, while Syria had shown progress in its disposal of chemical toxins, in keeping with an international agreement intended to avoid intervention by the West, the country was dealing with an ascendant "Islamic State." Previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS as well as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, this group self-declared a caliphate extending from Syria to Iraq. Whereas the West and regional powers in the Middle East had earlier called for an end to the Assad regime, suddenly the geopolitical stakes were quite different as extremist terrorists were now posing the most dangerous threat to regional stability.
As of 2015, Syria was mired in horrendous crisis as the civil war between the Assad regime and its opponents raged on, but also as wide swaths of Syrian territory had fallen to the terror group, Islamic State.
|Real Gross Domestic Product (LCU billions 2005 base)||1233.014381||1202.661416||1073.756459||1130.142363||1189.489246|
|Real GDP Growth Rate (%)||50.583312||-2.461687||-10.718308||5.251274||5.251274|
|Population, total (million)||19.203090||18.734987||18.430453||18.050232||17.572693|
|Inflation, GDP Deflator (%)||-12.000000||38.000000||48.500000||25.968367||25.968367|
|Official Exchange Rate (LCU/$US)||154.660208||240.546456||467.718770||467.718770||467.718770|
|Total Foreign Exchange Reserves ($US billions)||40.896292||55.047583||72.983909||36.219946||59.030041|
Average Daily Temperature
|Annual Rainfall :||13.6"|
|Kurds, Armenians, & other||10.00 %|
|Sunni Muslim||74.00 %|
|Alawite Muslim||12.00 %|