Country of the World Syria

About the country Syria, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Syria is located in the Middle East, with Israel on the southwest. Prominent geographic features are the Anti-Lebanon and Alawi mountains, which run parallel to the Mediterranean from the Golan Heights (occupied since 1967 by Israel) to the Turkish border; the Euphrates River valley, which traverses the country from the north to the southeast; the remote Jebel ed Druz Mountains in the south; and the semidesert plateau in the southeast. The east flank of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains is dotted with valley oases, the largest of which, lying 70 mi. by road across Lebanon from the coast, is the site of Damascus, the capital. The climate of the Damascus region is roughly comparable to that of Phoenix, Ariz.

Size: 71,467 sq. mi. (185,100 sq. km.).

Population: 8.1 million.

Who Rules: An elected president, with a partially elected and partially appointed People's Council (legislature). Candidates are selected by the National Progressive Front, a coalition that includes the Moscow-allied Syrian Communist party and several small socialist parties along with the majority Ba'ath party.

Who REALLY Rules: The military wing of the Ba'ath party, headed by Pres. Hafez al-Assad, former commander of the air force. Assad's Alawite kinsmen dominate the officer corps down to the noncommissioned officer level, staff three separate security agencies, and provide the manpower for a special presidential guard under the command of Assad's brother, Rifaat.

Since the October, 1973, war with Israel, Assad's policy of economic liberalization has attracted substantial investment from the Arab oil producers. Syrian businessmen who had fled with their money during the sixties were encouraged to return, no questions asked. The rise of what Le Monde has called the "Syrian dolce vita" accompanies a severe decline in the living standards of the working class and poor peasants hit by rampant inflation.

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