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Syria is a country located in the Levant region of the Middle East. Syria is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, located to the south of Turkey, to the west of Iraq, and to the north of Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, and it has had a rich history as one of the centers of civilization since the dawn of human civilization; Damascus is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities on Earth, while ancient cities like Palmyra still stood as reminders of past empires. The capital is Damascus, and in 2014 it had a population of 17,064,853 people.

History

Ancient history

Syria

Location of Syria

Syria was ruled by Ebla in its first years, with Damascus being built in 6300 BC. It was later taken over by the Egyptian Empire during their expansion north against the warlords of Palestine and the Levant, but was conquered by the Persian Empire during the wars of conquest against Egypt in the 2000s BC. Syria gained its own unique government once more when Alexander the Great of Macedon took over the city during the 330s BC and gave it to his general Seleucus upon his death in 323 BC. Seleucus founded the Seleucid Empire, which was centered in Syria. Syria became not only home to the Levantine people, but also gained a large population of Greeks, who spread Hellenistic culture to the region.

Syria was conquered by the Roman Empire in 73 BC after the remaining Seleucid princes were forced to submit to Roman rule, and under Rome, Syria became a major province. The region gained a large following of Christians that became known as "Maronites", who attracted many of the Greek citizens; Greece became a stronghold of Christianity. Syria's Christian community spread to nearby Lebanon, and today Greek Orthodox is a major religion of the country.

After the Roman Empire's divide in 330 AD, Syria became a province of the Eastern Roman Empire. It was conquered by the Arabs in 640 AD under Khalid ibn al-Walid, a general of the Rashidun Caliphate who was known for his great skills in combat. Soon, all of the Levant and Palestine fell under Arab control. Ruled nominally by the Rashiduns, it was really ruled by the Sultanate of Damascus, which remained free from the Seljuk Empire, Crusader States, and the Fatimid Caliphate until Salah ad-Din of the Egyptian Ayyubid Caliphate conquered Damascus in 1175.

In the 1100s, the Hashshashin order was founded, building bases in Syria and Persia. An order of assassins, they were powerful in the region and remained powerful until the Mongol Empire conquered them in 1257 in the Fall of Masyaf. They destroyed 300 Assassin strongholds and took much of the Middle East, but the Levant remained under Crusader (Christian) and Arab rule. The Mongols conquered the city in 1260, but the city was later reclaimed by Mamelukes. In 1511, the city was taken over by the Ottoman Empire. It was one of their largest cities, and remained in their hands until France took the city in 1917 during World War I. French Syria lasted from 1917 to 1946, after World War II, when Arabs were given the right to self-rule.

Syrian Arab Republic

Hashim al-Atassi

Hashim al-Atassi

Hafez al-Assad

Hafez al-Assad

In 1946, Syria became an independent republic, with Shukri al-Quwatli serving as the first President of the Syrian Republic. Syria, like most of the other Arab countries in the region, was hostile to Israel and attempted to crush the newly-independent nation in the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948-49. However, Syria's forces were crushed by the Israelis, and in 1949 a coup overthrew Quwatli's government and placed the USA-backed Husni al-Za'im in power with his Syrian Social Nationalist Party. al-Za'im was overthrown shortly after by Hashim al-Atassi, whose dictatorship aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. From the 1940s into the 1960s, the Syrian government would see a revolving door of military dictators and constant political strife, but in 1966 Hafez al-Assad and the Syrian Ba'ath Party seized power. al-Assad became the de facto dictator of Syria and lost the Six-Day War of 1967 and the 1973 Yom Kippur War to Israel, leading to the Golan Heights being lost to Israel.

Syria's rivalry with Israel was matched by its rivalry to Ba'athist Iraq upon Saddam Hussein's rise to power, as the pro-Michel Aflaq Ba'ath Party in Iraq was rivals with the pro-Gamal Abdel Nasser Ba'athists in Syria. The ensuing rivalry would see Iraq and Syria use intrigue against each other, including intelligence agency operations and assassinations. Syria increased its role in Middle Eastern affairs under al-Assad, invading Lebanon in 1976, allegedly to restore order; it turned out that the Syrians would remain in the country for 29 more years as an occupying army that was backed only by the SSNP and some Shia militias in Lebanon. France's anti-Syria role in the Lebanese Civil War led to poor relations with Syria, and Syria would claim responsibility for the bombing of a French peacekeeping force's barracks in Beirut in 1983 in conjunction with a suicide bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks. Syria was also suspected of murdering the French ambassador to Lebanon Louis Delamare and embassy clerk Guy Cavallo in 1982, and Syria hired Carlos the Jackal and some Palestinian terrorists from PFLP to carry out terrorist attacks in France in Europe and other countries to show that Syria could influence European affairs as the Europeans sought to interfere in Middle Eastern affairs. The Syrians were aggressive under al-Assad, leading to clashes with Israel in Lebanon. In 1990, as the Cold War drew to a close, al-Assad became a US ally against Saddam and Iraq, contributing troops for the Gulf War. For this reason, the regime in Syria would remain in power.

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad

Hafez al-Assad died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad as dictator. In 2005, al-Assad was forced to withdraw from Lebanon after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, which triggered the Lebanese nationalist Cedar Revolution; however, Syria continued to have a role in Lebanese politics via its ally of Hezbollah and other Shi'ite militant groups and pro-Syria political parties (Syria was suspected of murdering anti-Syria Lebanese politicians during the late 2000s). al-Assad formed an alliance with Russia, giving them a naval base at Latakia, while he was also an ally of the Shi'ite theocracy of Iran to oppose the USA. His dictatorship saw Syria be a secular nation that was a pluralistic society, and he considered banning the hijab to end Salafism. Many Islamists would be imprisoned in Sednaya prison, but in 2011 they were released from prison during protests against the Syrian government during the Arab Spring. These terrorists would go on to form the Syrian Opposition against al-Assad, and the Syrian Civil War began as Islamists formed Ahrar ash-Sham, the al-Nusra Front, Islamic Front, and other groups to fight against the government while many Sunni soldiers in the Syrian Arab Army defected to form the Free Syrian Army. Iran and Russia sent advisers to help Syria, with Iranian troops fighting on the ground alongside PFLP and Hezbollah foreign fighters, and Russia sent the Russian Air Force to help al-Assad. Meanwhile, the international community condemned al-Assad's cruelty in using barrel bombs to indiscriminately bomb besieged cities while also accusing him of using chemical weapons against the opposition in Damascus in 2013. The United States President Barack Obama proposed precise strikes against Syrian chemical weapons in response to the chemical attack on Syrian protesters, but the US' fight against the Assad government died down as the Islamic State became their main enemy in Syria. Soon, Syria became a battleground from all sides as the moderate Syrian rebels, Islamist militants, the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate, and the government fought for control of the country, and millions of people fled as refugees. Many countries chose to recognize the Free Syrian Army as the legimitate representative of the Syrian government, and Syria devolved into anarchy.