Government • After WWI, was colonized by French • After WWII, gained independence • But politically unstable as military coup’s were common • 1970, Hafiz al-Assad seized power • 2000, upon Hafiz’ death, son (Bashar al-Assad) became president and remains in power • …So, authoritarian republic • Shares borders w/ Iraq, Israel, Turkey…
Economy • GDP = $107 billion • Per capita = $5,100 (ranks 159 of 229 in world) • Below the likes of Mongolia, Morocco, Guatemala • Just ahead of Fiji, Honduras, the Congo • Dependence on oil • 25% of government revenue • Unemployment = 18%
Social Demographics • Religion • 74% = Sunni • 16% = Shia (including government) • 10% = Christian • Population of 20 million • similar to Taiwan & Australia • Similar land area to N. Dakota • 55% of population is under 25 yrs old
Based on this background information, what issues do you think are likely problematic in Syrian society?
History of Conflict w/ U.S. • 1960-1980: Syria allied with USSR • 1990-2000: Syria allied with U.S. during Gulf War • 2000-2008: Relations w/ U.S. have eroded • Aided search for al-Qaeda • U.S. fears over WMDs • U.S. fears Syrian alliance w/ Iran • U.S. fears Syrian support of anti-Israel groups • Considered a state sponsor of terrorism
History of Contemporary Internal Conflict • 2011: Arab Spring • Youth-oriented popular uprising in Middle East utilizing the internet to overthrow authoritarian governments • 2011-today: Syrian Civil War • President Assad’s regime fights to maintain control as rebels fight to overthrow regime • Complications: • Who are the rebels & what do they want? • Would the U.S. aid the revolution?
History of Contemporary Internal Conflict • U.S. has remained outside the conflict • Limited aid: small-scale CIA training of rebels, providing small arms • Rebels control large portion of northern areas • Aug. 2012: Obama warns that use of chemical weapons crosses a red line
Tension Today • March 2013: Syria claims rebels use chemical weapons on Syrians • April 2013: Investigators confirm chemical weapons use, but believe it done by government • Aug. 2013: U.S. & allies begin to organize for strikes • Obama’s choices: U.N. cooperation, Congressional authorization, go-it-alone • Sept. 2013: Russia proposes diplomatic response
Role of Russia • Ally of Syria • Attempts to constrain “American imperialism” • Vetoes military action & sanctions in U.N.
Role of Iran • Ally of Syria • One of a few nations with Shia leadership • Rivalry with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leadership • Developing nuclear weapons • Aiding Syrian weapons programs • Enemy of United States • Victim of chemical weapons use & warns against further use
Archive: History of Tension w/ Syria Full Interview: Charlie Rose w/ Assad 60 Minutes: Assad & Obama Interviews