Syria

 

Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was re-established. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba’th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country.

 

In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops – stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role – were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah.

 

Geography:
Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E
People:
Population: 22,530,746 (July 2012 est.)

note: approximately 18,100 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2010) (July 2012 est.)

Age structure: 0-14 years: 22,530,746 (July 2012 est.)

note: approximately 18,100 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2010) (July 2012 est.)

15-64 years: 61% (male 6,985,067/female 6,753,619)

65 years and over: 3.8% (male 390,802/female 456,336) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic

conventional short form: Syria

local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah

local short form: Suriyah

former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)

Government type: republic under an authoritarian military-dominated regime
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 4.069 million (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 11.696 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 99 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 26

over 3,047 m: 5

2,438 to 3,047 m: 16

914 to 1,523 m: 3

under 914 m: 5 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army (includes Syrian Arab Navy), Syrian Arab Air and Air Defence Force (includes Air Defence Command) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for compulsory male military service; conscript service obligation – 18 months; women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve; re-enlistment obligation 5 years, with retirement after 15 years or age 40 (enlisted) or 20 years or age 45 (NCOs) (2010)

Economy:

The Syrian economy grew by an estimated 3.3% in real terms in 2007 led by the petroleum and agricultural sectors, which together account for about one-half of GDP. Higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and led to higher budgetary and export receipts. Damascus has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating all of the multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, most notably gasoline and cement, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange – which is set to begin operations in 2009.

 

In October 2007, for example, Damascus raised the price of subsidized gasoline by 20%, and may institute a rationing system in 2008. In addition, President ASAD signed legislative decrees to encourage corporate ownership reform, and to allow the Central Bank to issue Treasury bills and bonds for government debt. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production, high unemployment and inflation, rising budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.

Transnational Issues:

Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shaba’a farms in the Golan Heights; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan; approximately two million Iraqis have fled the conflict in Iraq with the majority taking refuge in Syria and Jordan.