There are discussions between King Hussein II of Jordan and Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus. They discuss how to support the new government in Lebanon (President Elie Hobeika has recently appointed Nabih Berri as the President of the National Assembly; Rashid Karami remains Prime Minister). While they are unable to agree on the Palestinian question, are supporting different sides in the Iran-Iraq War and Jordan is supporting the anti-Assad Muslim Brotherhood, it is the first meeting of the two leaders in six years. They also fail to agree on any joint action against the Israeli air strikes.
Syrian Communist Party chief, Khalid Bakdash, is dumped by his party on instructions from Moscow over his refusal to “get on board” with the broader direction of the Communist movement globally. He is replaced by reformist Yusuf Faisal, who calls for the release of Communist political prisoners. When this is refused, he is authorised to establish secret talks with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Bakdash will move to establish a strong Kurdish support base for a potential splinter movement.
A Jordanian citizen with connections to the Syrian government and intelligence services is arrested at Heathrow Airport, attempting to smuggle semtex on board on El Al flight. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain announces the termination of diplomatic relations with Syria, followed shortly thereafter by the United States and Canada. The European Community also imposes trade sanctions on the regime in Damascus. The Soviet Union expresses “disappointment”.
Violent protests of about eight thousand students rock the Syrian capital of Damascus, sponsored by the reorganised Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. With Communist Party cooperation, the Brotherhood has been able to use government resources to coordinate the campaign. During the conflict, two students are killed by the Mukhabarat, the Syrian secret police. It marks the beginning of a troublesome period for the Assad government.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel announces that Syrian troops have been involved in the launching of rockets from Lebanon into the Upper Galilee, while Likud leader David Levy points out that the costly 1982 war was meant to have prevented that from ever happening again. Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin has suggested the establishment of a permanent security zone over much of southern Lebanon, imitating the Syrian dominance of the north. He also suggests that Syrian-backed terrorists may be planning strikes in West Berlin.
As part of what appears to be a growing campaign against the presidency of Hafez Assad, more Syrian anti-government protests are seen in the city of Aleppo. Assad warns that further violence may lead to a crackdown, and that he will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to ensure the stability of his regime. He also accuses Israel of being involved in destabilisation.
Responsibility for the bombing of the Syrian Defence Headquarters in Damascus is levelled at the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, after eight soldiers are killed. President Hafez al-Assad fires his unpopular intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Mustafa Tlass, announcing the role will be filled by Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam. He also states that the major crisis is inflation and that the government is planning an attack on it. Protests begin to dissipate.
Syrian President Hafez Assad declares a state of emergency to deal with a general strike, a response to government spending cutbacks. The revolt against him begins to grow as the international community condemns the violent assaults on protestors, but others argue that Assad has been responsible for freed hostages and eliminating radicals in Lebanon.
East German First Secretary Gregor Gysi announces the termination of diplomatic relations with Syria, citing evidence from a terrorist investigation by the Soviets that the Syrian embassy had smuggled in explosive earlier in the year. He calls for the international isolation of the Syrian regime, arguing that the United Nations should assume control of the country and that the Communist world should join him in similar action going forward.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is expelled from their Nicosia headquarters by Britain, as tensions out of Damascus lead to the call of new leadership internationally. The Muslim Brotherhood moves to Paris, making continuous representations against the brutality of the Assad regime.
President Hafez Assad of Syria, having noticed a changing strategic situation in Iraq and wishing to respond to the instability in his own country, declares a state of emergency. Troops are ordered in major cities to ensure that public order is maintained and enforced.
Protests once again break out in the city of Latakia in Syria and there are calls for a general strike to bring down President Hafez Assad, the long-time dictator. With the recent departure of Saddam Hussein, there are rumours among the country that there is about to be a military coup d’etat against the Assad family, similar to what occurred in Iraq. These prove to be unfounded.
There are destructive riots across Syria after a group of students stage an uprising at Damascus University in favour of an Islamic government and release of Muslim and other dissidents. Some public buildings are torched in the riots, which will take two days to contain.
Syria’s President, Hafez Assad, addresses his nation on television as riots continue throughout his country. He admits that he has made “past mistakes” and calls for patience throughout the nation so that the necessary amendments can be put into place.
Seemingly reversing his stand of yesterday, Syrian President Hafez Assad declares a state of martial law.
Populist marches in Syria demand the removal of President Hafez Assad and the installation of a democratic Islamic government. Over the next two weeks, the size of the protests will continue to grow until eventually, they number into the millions across the country.
Rumours circulate the Middle East that the President of Syria, Hafez Assad, has resigned. The rumour is embraced by a number of popular newspapers; however, the rumour is proved to be false, with Assad stating that his government will not be moved by the continuing marches.
President Hafez Assad of Syria and his family leave the country for a “vacation” in Egypt. Within the next week, the increasing protests and civil unrest will see the collapse of the state, as those with the opportunity, means and motive abandon their posts and flee with what assets they can carry to the Gulf states, as well as Jordan and Egypt. The nation is left in the nominal control of Acting President Abdul Halim Khaddam.
Acting President of Syria, Abdul Halim Khaddam, announces his intention to form an Interim Government of National Unity, including those factions which have traditionally opposed the Assad regime. He states that negotiations are currently open with those both inside and outside the country to ensure that central authority does not completely collapse.
President of Syria, Abdul Halim Khaddam, meets with Middle East peace envoy and former US President Richard Nixon. Nixon states that the US will return an ambassador to the country “in recognition of the decision by the Syrian government to cease sponsoring terrorism”. President Khaddam states that he will expel various groups and camps, and will detain and extradite those accused of crimes in Egypt and Jordan.
In a press conference in Berne, the 49-year-old leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, announces that he is returning to his homeland. He renounces the legitimacy of the Interim Government without representation for the Brotherhood but confirms he will seek talks with President Khaddam.
Syrian President Abdul Halim Khaddam expresses grave concern over the establishment of paramilitaries and “revolutionary committees” within his country. He calls on Muslim Brotherhood leader, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, to get his supporters to cease violence and engage in dialogue. Bayanouni flies immediately to Damascus and states that he will attempt to do that.
Syrian President Abdul Halim Khaddam states that his nation’s historic alignment with Iran is “burdensome” and that, with the economy and the military in tatters, he is “receptive” to peace with the West. He admits that the USSR has agreed to extend $4 billion in economic loans and rescheduled debts. However, there will apparently be insufficient money to pay Tehran the billions owed on discounted petroleum.
Clashes between youth and police in the streets of Syria makes it clear that President Abdul Halim Khaddam is having extreme difficulty in managing the balance between Islamic revolutionaries, extremist socialists, liberals and Arab nationalists. Khaddam insists that the matter has been contained.
There are high levels of violent attacks against liberals and socialists in Syria as they resist attempts by hardline Islamists to create an Islamic republic on the model of Iran. There are acts of political violence and widespread civil unrest among all factions.
US Secretary of State James Baker announces that, in sixty days, Syria will be removed from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. At that time, US assistance will become available and US businesses will be allowed to trade with and operate within Syria.
President Abdul Halim Khaddam of Syria announces that he has been unable to reach an agreement with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He states that he will not abandon the country to “fundamentalism” and calls for international assistance for hundreds being injured in street demonstrations with primitive weapons such as clubs, chains and iron bars. He also advises that a meeting of all factions will occur again on 13 November to make one last attempt at a government of national unity.
Syrian factional leaders meeting in Damascus fail to achieve a deal that will allow the formation of a unity government after the Muslim Brotherhood walk out. President Abdul Halim Khaddam declares a state of emergency and orders the Syrian army on to the streets to restore order. Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni releases a statement, condemning the President for his links to the previous regime and stating he needs to apologise for his part in crimes against the people and make way for a popular government.
Following a meeting with King Hussein of Jordan, President Abdul Halim Khaddam proclaims to the Arab League a “new birth of Arab unity” after a vote to return Egypt to full membership, a move long vetoed by his predecessor. King Hussein states that this opens the path for Arab nations to reach reconciliation with Israel, a statement proven true by the decision of Iraq, Morocco, the UAE and Kuwait only days later when they decide to establish diplomatic relations with the “Zionist entity”, joining Egypt and Jordan. Khaddam also commits his nation to reconciliation with Iraq.
Syria formally renews diplomatic relations with the United States for the first time in many years. President Abdul Hamid Khaddam is criticised by Muslim fundamentalists for his associations with the US and Israel, and many agree that the violence on Syrian streets mark the final days of the Khaddam government.
President Abdul Halim Khaddam of Syria is forced to resign after five months. As he leaves the country, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni takes over at Tesheen Palace and declares that he will act as the nation’s provisional leader until democratic elections can be held. Opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood express concern that he does not immediately set a date.
Acting Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni commits not to cancel the work of the previous government’s constitutional commission, welcoming a civil democratic constitution for Syria. He suggests that previous delays were attempts by the Baath Party to protect its interests in the post-Assad era. He also states that, if elected, the Muslim Brotherhood will may review the constitution, but will respect democratic processes. Presidential elections are scheduled for 25 February. Bayanouni is sufficiently confident to state that he will welcome international observers.
In what international observers call a “free and open” election, Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni is popularly elected as the new President of Syria. He declares that Syria will become a pluralistic, democratic society, but also admits that his country has issues to resolve with all of her neighbours. He also declares his strong support for some level of Islamic foundation to Syrian law. The world is nervous that the first Muslim Brotherhood government will emulate the Iranians.
Syria holds a parliamentary election, the first relatively free vote in the nation’s history since 1954. International observers agree that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over 84% of the Arab vote. However, due to the wishes of President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, a non-proportional number of seats have been allocated to ethnic minorities in the new legislature and thus the Brotherhood, while taking a majority of the vote, only win 157 out of 250 seats.
Lieutenant General Vernon Walters, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, flies out to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni after two armoured brigades, supported by two battalions of special forces, are sent to the Iraqi border. Bayanouni expresses concern that the rhetoric from Iraq has become steadily more hostile and denies any role by Syria in promoting instability in its neighbour. He instead suggests that Iran may continue to be seeking advantage.
US President George Bush expresses “deep concern” about intelligence that the new Syrian government has struck a deal with China to buy ten M9 missiles, each with a range of 800 kilometres. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres states that his nation will be unable to “sit idly by”, suggesting a pre-emptive strike against Syria if the purchase goes ahead.
The Iraqi government claims to have evidence that the Syrian President, Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, is funnelling money and armaments to Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. It also claims that Syria is diverting additional water out of the Euphrates River in order to increases stresses on the Iraqi regime. President Bayanouni confirms the second allegation, stating that Iraq has failed to pay millions of dollars in oil transit fees and threatening to cut off Iraq’s only pipeline to the outside world. Oil prices once again begin to rise.
According to a Pentagon document leaked today, a recent typhoid outbreak in Syria was caused by a strain of the disease which has been weaponised and was sold by the United States to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni openly threatens military action, but few consider this a serious threat. Iraqi President Maher Abdul Rashid claims that the disease must have spread through Syria’s failure to control its borders and that it allowed infected Kurds to enter its territory. US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney admits his government has been aware of Iraq’s biological weapon program since 1986.
The CIA reports that a large number of Syrian troops, perhaps as many as forty thousand, are headed toward the Iraqi-Syrian border. The US puts its Mediterranean and Persian Gulf assets on high alert and their ambassador seeks a top-level meeting with Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni.
Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni agrees to cooperate with US attempts to establish a peaceful dialogue between himself and the Iraqi President, Maher Abdul Rashid. US Secretary of State James Baker announces that talks will be scheduled for next week in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Syrian officials believe that Iraq may have deliberately used biological weapons against the Syrian population.
Talks between Iraq and Syria break down after reports that a Syrian delegate struck an Iraqi diplomat during a crucial moment. The Syrians have stated that the President of Iraq, Maher Abdul Rashid, is not negotiating in good faith, and demand that he immediately scrap his biological and chemical weapon program or prepare for conflict.
At 2am local time, five Syrian divisions cross the border with Iraq, supported by two helicopter squadrons and four aircraft squadrons. The air support strikes Iraqi Air Force bases across the country, as well as landing commandos and bombing the airport at Kirkuk. There are reports of vicious skirmishes between Syrian commandos and Iraqi Republican Guards. On paper, the two countries are evenly matched and, for the next seven months, the conflict will be marked by attempts to establish air supremacy. Later that day, President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni issues a declaration of war.
Syrian troops occupy the Euphrates township of Al Qa’im and capture Iraq’s main uranium refinery. Authorities in Damascus claim that their troops have destroyed technology which indicated the Iraqi government was attempting to build their own atomic warheads, though US intelligence question the legitimacy of the news.
Breaking his silence with the international media since the beginning of the war with Iraq, Syrian President Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni agrees to an interview with US and Egyptian journalists. He states that he is open to discussions with Israel and is considering an open invitation from Prime Minister Shimon Peres to peace talks in Tel Aviv, but states that Israel must renounce the ambition to have a state “from the Nile to the Euphrates”. He declares his support for the independence of Gaza and the West Bank, and his opposition to his predecessor’s policy of supporting terrorist groups. Lastly, he declares that, “following victory”, he will unify Iraq and Syria under his Muslim Brotherhood government.
Iraqi and Syrian troops engage outside the township of Sinjar. Nearly four hundred people are killed before the Iraqis retreat back towards Mosul. Reports from the battlefront indicate that the local Yazidi people, a branch of the Iraqi Kurdish minority, are cooperating with the enemy.
Tal Afar, a Shia Turkmen town about sixty kilometres outside Mosul, becomes the centre of entrenched battles between the Iraqi and Syrian armies, resulting in mass evacuations by the civilian population. It cuts the rail line out of Mosul to the north, but Syrian advances towards the major northern city bog down.
A Syrian attempt to seize the Haditha Dam is repulsed with hundreds of casualties on both sides. The ambition of Syria had been to control the flow of the Euphrates and one of Iraq’s major electricity production centres.
Syrian troops take control of the town of Ar Rutbah, cutting the road from Amman to Baghdad. The Syrian Army denies reports of heavy casualties, but they now control the Mosul-Haifa pipeline. The front is well established with analysts suggesting that it will now come down to who can ultimately control the sky.