Country Listing

Syria Table of Contents



Under Assad, Syria has sought to be a leading Arab and regional power, capable of controlling or influencing Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians. Syria seeks to participate in every issue in the region and to further policies that substantiate its claim to an effective regional role. In pursuing these objectives, Syria is striving for regional hegemony--a goal that ultimately is likely to be beyond Syria's capabilities and resources. In fact, according to various analysts, Syria's pursuit of this goal will undermine its precarious stability.

Syria also has striven to lead the Arab resistance to Israel and to oppose, both militarily and politically, the path leading to diplomatic recognition of Israel's legitimacy, to which Egypt agreed through the Camp David Accords (see Foreign Policy , ch. 4). In pursuit of its goals, the Syrian regime formulated the doctrine of "strategic parity" with Israel, which involved upgrading the country's military capability and materiel to give it an edge in a future confrontation.

Regionally, Syria was intent on achieving a number of military and political objectives. These included the reconquest of the Golan Heights (in early 1987 it had deployed a force of about six divisions in the Damascus-Golan Heights region), and opposition to the establishment of an Israeli-dominated "security zone" (manned largely by the Christian forces of the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army) in southern Lebanon. Syria also sought to control Lebanese affairs and to restrict the presence of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) military forces in Lebanon, without formally annexing territory or having to maintain a large military presence there.

As part of its national security doctrine, Syria has sought to expand ts relationship with the Soviet Union, as embodied in the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Specifically, Syria endeavored to formalize the relationship with a "strategic cooperation" agreement comparable to the treaty between the United States and Israel.

Syria also employed terrorism in pursuit of its security objectives. In the mid-1980s, Syria was accused--primarily by the United States and the United Kingdom--of playing an active role in international terrorist activities through sponsorship of Palestinian, Lebanese, and other Arab terrorist groups. Furthermore, Syria had been directly implicated in a series of terrorist attacks on American, West European, Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Turkish targets outside the Middle East.

Data as of April 1987