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The Middle East. Syria – an example of finagling From Dale Tatum, Who Influenced Whom? Lessons from the Cold War (Maryland: University Press of America, 2002), pp.15-37. Finagling with the SU. SU attempted exploit position as Syria’s main arms supplier 1956

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The middle east l.jpg

The Middle East

Syria – an example of finagling

From Dale Tatum, Who Influenced Whom? Lessons from the Cold War (Maryland: University Press of America, 2002), pp.15-37

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Finagling with the SU

  • SU attempted exploit position as Syria’s main arms supplier 1956

  • Counterbalance growth Western influence in Middle East

  • Formation Baghdad Pact seen as expansionist and threat to sovereignty

  • Anti-Baghdad coalition – SU arms to Syria and Egypt

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Syrian-Israeli War

  • After Arab-Israeli War 1973

  • SU wanted Syria attend Middle East peace conference Geneva

  • Hafed al-Assad refused comply – would only serve Israel’s interest (Golan Heights)

  • New war of attrition – military supplies from SU: why?

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Lebanese Civil War

  • Syria and SU supported different sides

    • Syria – Christian right wing faction

    • SU – leftist Palestinian faction

  • History of Lebanon…

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History of Lebanon…

  • Country divided by sectarianism

  • Prior WWI part Syria

  • Post-WWI French mandate over “the Lebanon”

  • Originally Christian, French expanded borders

  • 1943 Lebanon gained independence

  • National Pact divided power between Christians and Muslims, but favoured Christian community

    • President of the Republic: Maronite Christian

    • Prime Minister: Sunni Muslim

    • President to the National Assembly: Shiite Muslim

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History of Lebanon…

  • Christian community majority seats Parliament, and major cabinet posts

  • Lebanon developed capitalist economy and ties with the West

  • By 1975 Muslims majority, desired share political and economic power

  • Complicated by Palestinians – settled southern province when Israel created, launched attacks from here

  • Competition between different factions = political system collapsed

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Syria’s role

  • Assad became patron Palestinian forces

  • Attempted peace between Christians and Muslims

  • Syrian security threatened – partition along sectarian lines raised possibility war with Israel: PLO in south, with support from Iraq, would attack Israel and lead to Israeli war with Syria

  • 1976 Assad wanted negotiated settlement

  • SU supported Palestinian state, agreed

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Bargaining power

  • Assad wanted balance, but Muslim forces appeared strongest

  • SU cautious – Pravda reported Syrian troops helping ease tensions

  • Victory of Christian community seemed imminent, Pravda stated Syria should withdraw troops – otherwise supply arms halted

  • SU desire? Palestine to be separate state

  • Assad refused use of ports, SU resumed arms supply

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Isolation of Syria 1978-1982

  • SU dominating role – Syria failed obtain arms from SU, complied with demands

  • Syria unwilling or unable to restrain PLO attacks

  • Response = Israel launched Operation Latani (Stone of Wisdom) in southern Lebanon to counter PLO attacks

  • Threat to Syria’s position in Lebanon

  • Protecting Syria impt. to SU, but protecting influence in Lebanon not – avoiding entanglement in Middle Eastern politics!

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Isolation of Syria

  • Syria lacked means to stop Israeli forces in Lebanon

  • 1973 Egypt and Syria powerful against Israel – 2 fronts

  • 1978 Egypt constrained by Camp David Accords

  • Syria appealed to superpowers and UN to force Israeli withdrawal

  • Assad allowed enemy, Iraq, to ship arms across Syria, opened border to Arabs wanting to fight in Lebanon against Israel

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Realist Paradigm

  • Syria forced to back down

  • Signed Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with SU 1980

  • 1981 Syrian helicopters shot down over Syrian airspace by Israeli pilots

  • Response = surface-to-air missiles moved into Lebanon without SU support

  • Resolved by American negotiator

  • When Israel invaded Lebanon 1982, Syria unable acquire arms from SU

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Re-emergence of Syria

  • 1983 impt. changes:

    • Ability Assad mobilise Lebanese factions

    • Change SU leadership

  • Assad formed coalition within Lebanon to mount armed resistance against Israel and Lebanese govt.

  • Yuri Andropov more responsive to Assad’s requests – Reagan Plan concerning, verge acceptance Hussein and Arafat

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American influence

  • American influence in region seen as potentially disastrous

  • Israel informed 52,000 Soviet troops could be airlifted to Syria if attacked

  • SAM-5 missiles sent to Syria

  • 1985 Assad expelled 2000 Soviet advisors, gained control weapons

  • SU relationship with Assad strategic – port access to Mediterranean Sea

  • Syria needed arms – reciprocal relationship

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  • Not shared

  • SU – global view: US activities threat to peace in the region

  • Syria – narrower and regional view: Israel main threat to peace. Middle Eastern policy to maintain intricate links with various factions as guard against Israeli encroachment

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Arab League Plan and Gorbachev’s Plan

  • Similarities

    • Called for Israeli withdrawal Arab occupied territory

    • Palestinian self-determination

    • Palestinian state

    • Return East Jerusalem to Arabs

    • Freedom worship all religions

    • End state of war between Israel and Arabs

    • International peace conference hosted by P5

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  • Syria ambiguous about creation Palestinian homeland - key motive: wanted move Palestinians from Lebanon

  • SU wanted Palestinian state to avoid “pro-West” Jordanian link

  • Tatum: “During periods of high international tension, the bargaining position of a weak country is often enhanced because it is in a position to deny the leaders of a more powerful country something they want.”p.29

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Search for security

  • After SU collapse, Syria’s bargaining power reduced

  • New relationship with China, but different – they not require strategic ports, just cash

  • 1988 broadened ties with Jordan

  • 1989 improved relations with Egypt, allowed readmittance to membership of Pan-Arab Organisation for Organisation and Development