Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Photo from website of Lebanese Druze Philosopher Kamal Joumblat, left, receiving Lenin Medal for Peace from Soviet Ambassador in 1972. The Druze communities of Lebanon, Syria have a rich history of political importance and academic study from nearly any perspective. They reside -- and survive -- in one of the toughest neighborhoods of the Mideast. As a Syrian, you would want always to remain on negotiable terms with the Druze.

Lurene's email in 2014:

MAY 1990

PG 58-63

Za’im’s Rule

1) Though Za’im only ruled for 4 1/2 months in 1949, what mark did he leave?

- Reinforced, reequipped the Army

• Restored Army Morale, gave it a political purpose
• Civil service reformed
• Damascus university curriculum modernized
• Public works projects, oil pipelines
• Shari’a laws replaced
• Women who were literate given the vote. More freedom for them.

2) What were some of Za’im’s mistakes?

• Paranoia about his legitimacy
• Alienated his supporters
• May 1949, outlawed political parties
• Eagerness to conclude Armistice with Israel in order to free-up Army troops
• Accused Jordan, Iraq of threatening Syria.

3) Why did the People’s Party oppose him?

Because of hostility toward Iraq

4) What was the Ba’athist attitude?

Resented police informers, gag on press, partisanship in inter-Arab disputes, worker’s grievances: (Za’im jailed Aflaq for this.)

5) What prompted Za’im’s attempt to form the Cairo-Damascus-Ridya union?

Iraq and Jordan renewed press and Radio Assaults on the regime and Iraq sent Muzahim al-Pachachi to Egypt to persuade them not to recognize Syrian elections.

6) Who formed a government for Za’im after the June 25, 1949 elections?

Mushin al-Barazi. Before the Coup, was with Quwatli, also secretly plotting against Quwatli with Za’im. Both Za’im and al-Barazi, were Kurdish. Was a lawyer, provided “legal whitewash”.

7) What were Za’im’s preferences for international alignments?

• Oppossed to a “greater Israel”
• Against Nuri Pasha in Iraq
• With King Faruq in Jordan.
• Pro-France
• Wanted U.S. help with Syrian reconstruction
• Made differentiation between local Communists and Soviet Union, giving locals no legitimacy
• Suspicious of Britain’s “Fertile Cresent” designs.

8) How did Za’im shock his initial nationalist supporters?

To gain power, Za’im convinced them that only a Military govt could War with the Jews successfully. After gaining power, he commenced talks @ armistice with Israel on April 12.

9) What were some of the details about the Armistice talks? (July 20, 1949.)

• Establishment of a demilitarized zone, under U.N. supervision
• Za’im wanted to meet with Ben-Gurion.
• Proposed Za’im – Ben Gurion meeting horrified Za’im’s military aides.

10) What were Za’im’s main marks?

• Strengthened the military’s political role
• Encouraged reforms, swept away “dead wood”
• Changed the nature of support any future regime would have to depend on.
• Made many enemies, i.e. Hashemite supporters, bourgeois sectors.


Syria Readings
Chapters 12, 13 Military Dictatorship


1) Emerging as Syria’s leader after his second coup in Nov 1951, how did Shishakli differ from his predecessors?

• First extended military govt.
• More serious, more cautious
• Led a clash with people’s party, landlords in Central Syria
• Army invited to share fully in Civilian political disputes, became a political instrument.
• Modernized Army, promoted young nationalist officers
• Throughout most of his rule, without serious political rival
• Retained behind-the-scenes role. Colonel Fawzi Selu was head of state, prime minister and minister of defense.

2) What was Selu’s background?

Started in the Troupes Speciales in 1924. Commanded the Homs Military Academy after French departure in 1946. Headed Syrian delegation at Armistice talks after the Palestinian War. Defence minister in Civilian Cabinets from June 1950 to Nov. 1951

3) What were a few problems Shishakli had with reforms?

Land reform was violent. Shishakli’s aid Hawrani encouraged peasants in Central Syria to attack members of landholding families. The communists felt that Hawrani was taking over their moral platform.

In Sept. 1951, peasants staged a “anti-feudalist” rally in Aleppo.

4) What was Shishakli’s attitude toward foreign influence?

• Tried to control foreign private schools. New missionary schools outlawed, etc. Other measures.

5) What was his attitude toward religious groups?

He enforced the behaviour of religious figures and holidays. For example, in May 24, 1952, anyone breaking the Ramadan would be arrested. Outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. Later, banned all political parties.

6) Did any sector of Syrian Society support him?

Yes, the press. They wanted even more far-reaching reforms. They praised the orderliness of Syria.

7) How did Iraq react?

They called for intervention and withheld recognition. Every other nation recognized the regime, though. Including the four powers, who wanted an allied middle east command.

8) Why did Shishakli have reservations about the Atlantic Powers?

Didn’t want to limit his sovereignty with a western defense system. Also, there was the Anglo-Egyptian dispute. He was not desirous of an affront to Egypt. Hawrani and friends considered any cooperation with the west a betrayal, as well. Shishakli, not surprisingly, refused U.S. point. lV aid., and feared meddling U.S. lV technocrats.

9) Why did “Arabism” become a warily used slogan in his early months of rule?

Because it conflicted with the PPS’s doctrines, with Pan-Syrian objectives. Later, he wanted Syria to lead the Arab world.

10) Describe Shishakli’s attempt to make a transition from military ruler to President.

1) Shishakli becomes “Vice-Premir”
2) Launches “Arab liberation Movement” from Damascus
3) Politicians resent this
4) Regime’s first anniversary; big military parade
5) After Cairo Visit, Lieut-Col. Adnan al-Malki presents reform demands. They are all jailed.
6) Ba’athist leaders Aflaq and Bitar flee to Lebanon, continue charging Shishakli regime with plots.
7) Shishakli loses touch with Military.
8) Shishakli becomes extremely paranoid.
9) New constitution passed, promotes Arabism.
10) Ba’athist leaders return to Syria under Amnesty.

11) What was the major reason for stability during Shishakli’s regime?

Agricultural expansion, due to Shishakli’s reforms (the cotton bureau) and Aleppo Merchants for financing.


1) Why did Shishakli fear the Druze?

• Traditionally resistant to Damascus rule
• Located in South Syria, they had good ties with Jordan
• A vehicle for Hashemite influence in Syria
• Had connections with the British
• Resented the incorporation of The Jabel in to Syria in 1945 – long history of feuding with Damascus

2) What did Qutwali do in 1947 to attempt to control the Jabal area?

He tried to create a peasant revolt against the land-holding Atrash family in the Jabal. Sultan Pasha was able to quell the fighting, along with Hasan al-Atrash

3) What happened in the Druze-dominated city of Homs, fief of the Atasi family?

July 4, 1953, all opposition groups to Shishakli met to make a national pact on his downfall. They agreed that each province should liberate itself, but would begin with the Jabel uprising. The plan did not turn out as planned, however.

4) What role did Iraq play in this?

Cooperated with Syrian politicians who were opposed to Shishakli, receiving payments in many cases. A “Plan X” was in existence to invade Syria.

5) What was the British position?

To help British interests in Egypt, Israel and form the Fertile Cresent. Probable aim: regional defence pact.

6) France’s position?

To regain influence on Syria.

7) What did British oil interests have to do with it?

A friendly Syria would have ensured safety of Iraq Petro. Co. pipelines to the Mediterranean. But relations with Syria were not really feasible, since it would have been widely opposed.

8) What was one unlikely Iraqui proposal in January of 1954?

An Iraqui-financed Arab Army and union of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. This made Egypt and Saudi Arabia suspicious, of course. Syria called it another “Fertile Cresent” idea.

9) In Beirut, why did Druze leaders meet?

To denounce Shishakli’s crackdown on Jabel Druze.

10) Who was Col. Mustafa Hamdun in Aleppo?

The Army Col. Who first called on Shishakli to flee in February 25, 1954. Other actions in Aleppo followed. Other revolt leaders were from Homs and Jabel.

11) Shishakli quickly resigned and fled to Lebanon by 11 a.m. Why?

• Afraid of Iraqui Army
• Not a combative man by nature
• Druze plot to get revenge
• Army was now hopelessly factionalized.


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