Rulers of Syria 1920 — 2019 and Pakistan 1973 — 2019

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On 7 March 1920, Faisal 1, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, Grand Sharif of Mecca, was proclaimed King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria (Greater Syria) by the Syrian National Congress government of Hashim al-Atassi, see further notes below. At the time, the combined populations of Syria and Lebanon were just 2½ million people of different tribes (and ambitions).

Note too in Arabia, with its population of 2 million people, the Hashemite dynasty that had ruled the populous area of Mecca in western Arabia for 700 years, was at war and about to be overthrown (in 1924) by the rival Saudi dynasty that ruled Ryadh in central and eastern Arabia.

So, with this conflict in Arabia, and based on an earlier agreement in 1916, the San Remo conference in April 1920 between Britain and France presented France with the mandate for Syria, to Arab King Faisal's dismay, leading to the Franco-Syrian War. In the Battle of Maysalun on 24 July 1920, the French were victorious and Faisal was expelled. He went to live in the United Kingdom in August of that year, then in 1921 was appointed King in the new kingdom of Iraq (about 3 million people) under the British mandate there. His brother was appointed King of the new southern kingdom of Jordan that separated Iraq from Palestine.

In 1921, France divided Syria into several autonomous entities: State of Damascus, State of Aleppo, Greater Lebanon, Jabal Druze State and Alawite State click here for a map.

Subhi Barakat was French-appointed President of the Syrian Federation 1922 - 1924 with Damascus and Aleppo uniting to form the State of Syria in 1925. Together with the Druze, they went to war against the French, now ruling from Beirut in Lebanon. A constitution was adopted for Lebanon on 25 May 1926 establishing a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government. On 1 September 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic.
Back in 1924, Maurice Sarrail had been despatched to Syria as High Commissioner. He was recalled on October 30 1925, after he ordered the shelling of Damascus during the war which lasted over the next 3 years.

Taj al-Din al-Hasani became a French-appointed Head of State 1928 -1931, and again ten years later 1941 - 1943. Died suddenly of a heart attack in January 1943.

Muhammad Ali al-Abid French-appointed Head of State 1932 - 1936.

Hashim al-Atassi French-appointed Head of State 1936 - 1939 as first President of the newly declared Syrian Republic, now incorporating both the Druze and Alawite states. Still, with the emerging threat of Adolf Hitler, French troops remained. When al-Atassi resigned in protest over the delay, Bahij al-Khatib (see next entry) was appointed in his stead by the French authorities. After Syrian independence, Hashim was reappointed as President 1949 - 1951 and again 1954 - 1955.

Bahij al-Khatib French-appointed Head of State 1939 - 1941. Ruled by Vichy France, after Paris fell to the Germans. In June 1941 Syria saw the start of a two month war in Syria between French troops loyal to Vichy France, and Free French troops loyal to Charles de Gaulle, fighting alongside British troops. Vichy French troops were soon defeated in July 1941. Due to his now extreme unpopularity, al-Khatib asked to resign by French President Charles de Gaulle in September. Replaced by Taj al-Din al-Hasani (see that earlier entry) until al-Hasani's death in 1943.

Shukri al-Quwatli President 1943 - 1949, oversaw removal of French troops (in 1946). Followed by Hashim al-Atassi (see that earlier entry). Shukri al-Quwatli became President again 1955 - 1958.

Fawzi Selu Syrian military leader and President 1951 - 1953.

Adib Shishakli Syrian military leader and President 1953 - 1954. Followed by Hashim al-Atassi, then Shukri al-Quwatli (see those earlier entries).

Gamal Abdel Nasser President of the UAR-United Arab Republic 1958 - 1961 that followed the Suez Crisis. On 29th October 1956 Israel had invaded the Sinai, and a British-French-Israeli coalition took control of the Suez Canal in Egypt in early November. Following US (and international) pressure, British and French forces withdrew on 22nd December. Israel withdrew from the Sinai the following March, and UN troops were stationed there in their place. Nasser's perceived victory in the media led to his being hailed as a hero in the Arab world, and Syria found itself in a short-lived union with Egypt.

Nazim al-Kudsi Head of State 1961 - 1963. Overthrown in a coup d'etat. Moved to Jordan in exile where he died in 1998.

Amin al-Hafiz President 1963 - 1966. Overthrown in a coup d'etat. Relocated to Baghdad. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, returned quietly to Syria where he died in 2009.

Salah Jadid Syrian general, Political figure in the Ba'ath Party and the country's de facto leader from 1966 until 1970. Following an intra-party coup he was imprisoned in Damascus where he died in 1993.

Hafez al-Assad Defense Minister in the Ba'ath Party. Became President in 1971 following that intra-party coup in 1970. Set up police state, ruled until his death 1971 - 2000.

Bashar al-Assad Hafez's son. Trained as an eye surgeon in West London for two years 1992-1994. After his elder brother Bassel died in a car crash, Bashar was recalled to Syria in 1994 as heir apparent. Has ruled (via a police state) since 2000.

 

Further to the east, another "hot-spot" of, at times, warring rivalries.

Pakistan — Prime Ministers since 1973

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1973-1977. Previously, had served as 4th President of Pakistan from December 1971-August 1973. Oversaw Pakistan's gaining of the atom bomb in 1972, recognised the breakaway country of Bangla Desh in 1974, formed friendships with China, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, though was implacably opposed to Saddam Hussein in Iraq who had fomented unrest in Balochistan, a province in southwest. Made awkward enemies, dismissed by President Zia Ul-Haq in 1977 in a military coup, and then hanged under what appears to have been a pretext in 1979. Zia Ul-Haq subsequently ruled Pakistan under martial law with no Prime Minister or parliamentary elections until 1985.

Mohammad Junejo 1985-1988. Dismissed by President Zia following the "breakdown of law and order", but before new elections could be held President Zia died in what may have been a sabotaged plane crash.

Benazir Bhutto 1988-1990. Daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. First of two periods of service. She had married Asif Ali Zardari in 1987 who while she was Prime Minister became one of the wealthiest men in Pakistan. In 1990 she was dismissed for corruption.

Nawaz Sharif 1990-1993. Previously Chief Minister of Punjab (5 years). This was his first of three periods of service. Dismissed for corruption.

Benazir Bhutto 1993-1996. Dismissed again for corruption. Eleven years later she was assassinated in 2007 in an attack said to have been masterminded by the Pakistani Taliban due to her "pro-American and secularist agenda". After her assassination, her husband Asif Ali Zardari became President from 2008-2013.

Nawaz Sharif 1997-1999. Second period as PM. Dismissed by General Pervez Musharraf in a military coup.

Zafarullah Khan Jamali 2002-2004. Resigned.

Shaukat Aziz 2004-2007, the first Pakistani prime minister to complete a full term in the office.

Yousaf Raza Gillani 2008-2012. Disqualified due to a "contempt of court" conviction.

Nawaz Sharif 2013-2017. Third period as PM. Dismissed for corruption.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi 2017-2018

Imran Khan since August 2018.

 

Presidents

Muhammed Zia-Ul-Haq 1978-1988. Appointed Chief of Army staff in 1976. Military coup in 1977, dismissing most of the government, followed by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's execution in 1979. Imposed martial law. Following Russia's invasion of Afghanistan on 25 December 1979, oversaw military assistance to Afghanistan, with help from the CIA (Charlie Wilson's War) and Mossad in Israel. Died in a plane crash in 1988, in what may have been sabotage, though reported as a mechanical fault.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan 1988-1993. Resigned.

Farooq Leghari 1993-1997. Resigned.

Muhammad Rafiq Tarar 1998-2001. Resigns following General Pervez Musharraf's military coup in 1999. Musharraf now ruled, pretty much unhindered, for the following 9 years. Self-imposed exile following presidential elections and impeachment proceedings in 2008.

Asif Ali Zardari 2008-2013. Husband of Benazir Bhutto PM 1988-1990 and 1993-1996. Following his wife's assassination by Pakistani Taliban in 2007, Zardari became President, in fact the first elected president to complete his constitutional term.

Mamnoon Hussain 2014-2018.

Arif Alvi since September 2018.

 
Now, back to Syria, some recent news in 2016

Putin's air power soars over Syrian quagmire
The Australian
Alan Cullison, Wall Street Journal
Thursday, March 17, 2016

When Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria last year, the move provoked outrage in Washington and warnings from the White House that Russia faced a quagmire. But President Vladimir Putin's announcement that he would draw down some forces this week signalled his determination to skirt such a predicament. After five months of bombing in Syria, Kremlin watchers say, Russia has accomplished what it set out to do.

Russia has long said it wants to avoid a Libya-like scenario in Syria, where the toppling of a dictator allowed Islamic State to use the power vacuum to build up a force of several thousand fighters there. Putin argued that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the most effective tool for fighting jihadist terrorism in Syria — whatever the West may think of Assad's human rights record. A drawdown of Russian forces is a signal that Putin believes that, for now, Assad's future is ensured.

The Kremlin will certainly continue to support him, manning Russian military bases and carrying out missions at the request of the Syrian government, said Ivan Safranchuk, a political-science professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

"I think that Russia's goals are mainly achieved," Professor Safranchuk said. "The regime has survived: it doesn't control all the territory of Syria, but there are no existential threats to the regime any more."

But Russia's rescue of Assad has reaped broader benefits than the rescue of a military ally. The bombing campaign upset Western plans to isolate Russia diplomatically for its behaviour in Ukraine, since the West was forced to consult Moscow about its operations in Syria. Although Western politicians continued to call for the US to declare a no-fly zone over Syria, such a move was impossible without running the risk of shooting down a Russian plane.

Russia's bombing campaign also served notice to the West of how far Russia's military has come since Putin ordered a build-up after returning to the Kremlin as President. Russia surprised many military experts by its ability to sustain its bombing over many months — a feat it couldn't have accomplished a few years ago, and something few other countries besides the US could manage today. Russia's air force fared badly in its latest open conflict, with the former state of Georgia in 2008, when several of its planes were shot down in a few days. Syrian rebels, who have little in the way of anti-aircraft gear, have been easy targets for Russian air power.

Russia made a display of its cruise missiles and precision munitions at the beginning of the campaign, when rebels were near Damascus. Later it mainly bombed rebels from high altitude with unguided bombs, a tactic critics said wreaked havoc on the civilian population, accelerating refugee flows to Europe.

But ultimately the Russian airstrikes had a greater chance to be effective because Moscow, unlike the West, had a large and reliable ally on the ground who could spot targets and capture territory after the strikes, experts said.

Russia has denied causing any more civilian casualties than the Western bombing campaigns. "They are following a clear strategy and, in my opinion, are succeeding at it mightily," said Benjamin Lambeth, an air-warfare expert at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, though adding it was also done "most sloppily and in total indifference to the collateral damage to infrastructure and killing of innocents".

Russia was always known for its powerful land forces, but the bombing campaign was a new operation, and required a complex resupply effort far from its own borders, where ships carried munitions from the Black Sea through the Dardanelles to Syria.

Although most of the Russian equipment was old, experts said Moscow deployed some of its latest-generation fighters and new Mi-35 helicopters, using Syria as a proving ground. Analysts said the Russian operation was relatively cheap, since it dropped mainly inexpensive munitions, some of which it would have used in military exercises anyway.

But Russia also has cogent reasons for worrying about the outcome in Syria: more than 2000 fighters from Russia have joined Islamic State in Syria, independent analysts said, and thousands more have flowed into Syria from former Soviet republics. Most of those from Russia have arrived from Chechnya and other troubled North Caucasus regions. The Kremlin has long feared a victorious return of such fighters.

 
Defiant or delusional? Assad rails against the West
Weekend Australian
Ian Phillips, Zeina Karam, AP
Saturday, September 24, 2016

DAMASCUS: He's been stigmatised internationally, a contentious figure presiding over a ruinous civil war that seems to slip into further depravity every day. But in his power base in the Syrian capital, Bashar al-Assad projected confidence — conceding nothing to his critics, and accusing the US of derailing a ceasefire and lacking the "will" to fight extremists in his country.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Assad rejected US accusations Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo this week and his troops were preventing food from entering the city's rebel-held areas. He maintained deadly airstrikes by the US-led coalition on Syrian troops last weekend were intentional, dismissing US statements they were an accident. In Washington, the State Department countered that Assad's assertions were "ridiculous."

While acknowledging the war would "drag on" indefinitely as long as his opponents were receiving support from countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Assad said Syria would bounce back as a more unified state, and pledged to rebuild the ruined country and even welcome back refugees if assistance to the insurgents were to stop. The sense of detachment projected by the 51-year-old, who inherited power from his father 16 years ago, was striking. While acknowledging some mistakes, he denied any excesses by his troops and claimed the rebel-held parts of Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, weren't really under siege.

"If there's really a siege around the city of Aleppo, people would have been dead by now," he said, and questioned how rebels were able to smuggle in arms but apparently not food or medicine.

The ancient city, which has become both a symbol of resistance and the high price civilians are paying in the war, has been carved into rebel and regime controlled areas since 2012. Its eastern, rebel-held neighbourhoods are encircled by regime troops and there are reports of malnutrition and severe shortages of food and medical supplies. The UN has accused Assad of obstructing aid access to the city, despite an agreement to allow aid in during the weeklong ceasefire that ended on Monday.

Throughout the conflict, Assad's forces have been accused of bombing hospitals and civilians and choking rebel-held cities. Millions have fled Syria, some drowning at sea in the Mediterranean while trying to reach safety. Assad denied any hospitals were purposely targeted. "They accuse Syria of attacking hospitals, so you have hospitals and you have doctors and you have everything. How could you have them?"

The war has been defined by gruesome images of the aftermath of bloody attacks, documenting the plight of children in particular. Assad, while acknowledging the war had been "savage," said the accounts should not be automatically believed. "Those witnesses only appear when there's an accusation against the Syrian army or the Russian (army), but when the terrorists commit a crime or massacre … you don't see any witnesses," he said. "What a coincidence."

Syria and the US have been at loggerheads since an airstrike by the coalition hit Syrian troops in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour on Saturday, one week ago. US officials said the attack — the first direct hit on regime forces and in which Australian aircraft were involved — was accidental and the warplanes intended to target ISIS positions. Russia said the strikes killed more than 60 Syrian troops and, afterwards, ISIS militants briefly overran regime positions.

Assad dismissed the US account, saying the attack targeted a "huge" area for more than an hour. "It wasn't an accident by one airplane. It was four airplanes. You don't commit a mistake for more than one hour." Assad flatly rejected US accusations Syrian or Russian planes carried out an attack on an aid convoy on the outskirts of Aleppo that killed 20 people, many of them aid workers. He said whatever US officials say "has no credibility" and is "just lies". He also scoffed at the idea the White Helmets — civil defence volunteers in opposition-held areas seen as symbols of bravery — might be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize. "What did they achieve in Syria?" he said. "I would only give a prize to whoever works for the peace in Syria."

Asked about his methods, including the use of indiscriminate weapons, Assad said there was no difference between bombs: "When you have terrorists, you don't throw at them balloons or you don't use rubber sticks … You have to use armaments."

 

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