BACKGROUND: Syria - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

BACKGROUND: Syria

Background: Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. Since 1976, Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon, ostensibly in a peacekeeping capacity. In recent years, Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over the return of the Golan Heights. 

GEOGRAPHY

Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey 
Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E 
Map references: Middle East 
Area: total:  185,180 sq km

land:  184,050 sq km

water:  1,130 sq km

note:  includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory 
Area - comparative: slightly larger than North Dakota 
Land boundaries: total:  2,253 km

border countries:  Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km 
Coastline: 193 km 
Maritime claims: contiguous zone:  41 NM

territorial sea:  35 NM 
Climate: mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically hitting Damascus 
Terrain: primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west 
Elevation extremes: lowest point:  unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m

highest point:  Mount Hermon 2,814 m 
Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower 
Land use: arable land:  28%

permanent crops:  4%

permanent pastures:  43%

forests and woodland:  3%

other:  22% (1993 est.) 
Irrigated land: 9,060 sq km (1993 est.) 
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms 
Environment - current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining; inadequate supplies of potable water 
Environment - international agreements: party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:  Environmental Modification 
Geography - note: there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1999 est.) 

PEOPLE

Population: 16,728,808

note:  in addition, there are about 38,200 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 18,200 Arabs (16,500 Druze and 1,700 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (July 2001 est.) 
Age structure: 0-14 years:  39.92% (male 3,440,060; female 3,238,576)

15-64 years:  56.87% (male 4,868,816; female 4,644,870)

65 years and over:  3.21% (male 261,036; female 275,450) (2001 est.) 
Population growth rate: 2.54% (2001 est.) 
Birth rate: 30.64 births/1,000 population (2001 est.) 
Death rate: 5.21 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.) 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2001 est.) 
Sex ratio: at birth:  1.06 male(s)/female

under 15 years:  1.06 male(s)/female

15-64 years:  1.05 male(s)/female

65 years and over:  0.95 male(s)/female

total population:  1.05 male(s)/female (2001 est.) 
Infant mortality rate: 33.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.) 
Life expectancy at birth: total population:  68.77 years

male:  67.63 years

female:  69.98 years (2001 est.) 
Total fertility rate: 3.95 children born/woman (2001 est.) 
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.01% (1999 est.) 
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA 
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA 
Nationality: noun:  Syrian(s)

adjective:  Syrian 
Ethnic groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% 
Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo) 
Languages: Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood 
Literacy: definition:  age 15 and over can read and write

total population:  70.8%

male:  85.7%

female:  55.8% (1997 est.) 

GOVERNMENT

Country name: conventional long form:  Syrian Arab Republic

conventional short form:  Syria

local long form:  Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah

local short form:  Suriyah

former:  United Arab Republic (with Egypt) 
Government type: republic under military regime since March 1963 
Capital: Damascus 
Administrative divisions: 14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, Tartus 
Independence: 17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration) 
National holiday: Independence Day, 17 April (1946) 
Constitution: 13 March 1973 
Legal system: based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction 
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal 
Executive branch: chief of state:  President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice Presidents Abd al-Halim ibn Said KHADDAM (since 11 March 1984) and Muhammad Zuhayr MASHARIQA (since 11 March 1984)

head of government:  Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa MIRU (since 13 March 2000), Deputy Prime Ministers Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984), Khalid RA'D (since 13 March 2000), Muhammad NAJI 'UTRI (since 13 March 2000)

cabinet:  Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections:  president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; referendum/election last held 10 July 2000 - after the death of President Hafez al-ASAD, father of Bashar al-ASAD - (next to be held NA 2007); vice presidents appointed by the president; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president

election results:  Bashar al-ASAD elected president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.29%

note:  Hafiz al-ASAD died 10 June 2000; 20 June 2000 the Ba'th Party nominated Bashar al-ASAD for president and presented his name to the People's Council 25 June 2000 
Legislative branch: unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

elections:  last held 30 November-1 December 1998 (next to be held NA 2002)

election results:  percent of vote by party - NPF 67%, non-NPF 33%; seats by party - NPF 167, independents 83; note - the constitution guarantees that the Ba'th Party (part of the NPF alliance) receive one-half of the seats 
Judicial branch: Supreme Constitutional Court (justices are appointed for four-year terms by the president); High Judicial Council; Court of Cassation; State Security Courts 
Political parties and leaders: National Progressive Front or NPF (includes the Ba'th Party, ASU, Arab Socialist Party, Socialist Unionist Democratic Party, ASP, SCP) [President Bashar al-ASAD]; Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party (governing party) [Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general of the party, and chairman of the National Progressive Front after the death of Hafiz al-ASAD on 10 June 2000]; Arab Socialist Unionist Movement or ASU [Sami SOUFAN]; Arab Socialist Party [Abd al-Ghani KANNUT]; Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Ahmad al-ASAD]; Syrian Arab Socialist Party or ASP [Safwan KOUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party or SCP [Yusuf FAYSAL] 
Political pressure groups and leaders: conservative religious leaders; Muslim Brotherhood (operates in exile in Jordan and Yemen); non-Ba'th parties have little effective political influence 
International organization participation: ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO 
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Rustum al-ZU'BI

chancery:  2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:  [1] (202) 232-6313

FAX:  [1] (202) 234-9548 
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Ryan C. CROCKER

embassy:  Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansur Street, No. 2, Damascus

mailing address:  P. O. Box 29, Damascus

telephone:  [963] (11) 333-2814

FAX:  [963] (11) 224-7938 
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black, with two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, and of Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Egypt, which has a heraldic eagle centered in the white band 

ECONOMY
Economy - overview:
Syria's predominantly statist economy is on a shaky footing because of Damascus's failure to implement extensive economic reform. The dominant agricultural sector remains underdeveloped, with roughly 80% of agricultural land still dependent on rain-fed sources. Although Syria has sufficient water supplies in the aggregate at normal levels of precipitation, the great distance between major water supplies and population centers poses serious distribution problems. The water problem is exacerbated by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and increased water pollution. Private investment is critical to the modernization of the agricultural, energy, and export sectors. Oil production is leveling off, and the efforts of the nonoil sector to penetrate international markets have fallen short. Syria's inadequate infrastructure, outmoded technological base, and weak educational system make it vulnerable to future shocks and hamper competition with neighbors such as Jordan and Israel. The government recognizes the need to open the economy to additional domestic and foreign investment. 
GDP: purchasing power parity - $50.9 billion (2000 est.) 
GDP - real growth rate: 3.5% (2000 est.) 
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,100 (2000 est.) 
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture:  29%

industry:  22%

services:  49% (1997) 
Population below poverty line: 15%-25% 
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%:  NA%

highest 10%:  NA% 
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (2000 est.) 
Labor force: 4.7 million (1998 est.) 
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 40%, industry 20%, services 40% (1996 est.) 
Unemployment rate: 20% (2000 est.) 
Budget: revenues:  $2.25 billion

expenditures:  $5.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.) 
Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining 
Industrial production growth rate: NA% 
Electricity - production: 17.94 billion kWh (1999) 
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel:  57.64%

hydro:  42.36%

nuclear:  0%

other:  0% (1999) 
Electricity - consumption: 16.684 billion kWh (1999) 
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1999) 
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1999) 
Agriculture - products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk 
Exports: $4.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.) 
Exports - commodities: petroleum 65%, textiles 10%, manufactured goods 10%, fruits and vegetables 7%, raw cotton 5%, live sheep 2%, phosphates 1% (1998 est.) 
Exports - partners: Germany 21%, Italy 12%, France 10%, Saudi Arabia 9%, Turkey 8% (1999 est.) 
Imports: $3.5 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.) 
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment 23%, foodstuffs/animals 20%, metal and metal products 15%, textiles 10%, chemicals 10% (1998 est.) 
Imports - partners: France 11%, Italy 8%, Germany 7%, Turkey 5%, China 4% (1999 est.) 
Debt - external: $22 billion (2000 est.) 
Economic aid - recipient: $199 million (1997 est.) 
Currency: Syrian pound (SYP) 
Currency code: SYP 
Exchange rates: Syrian pounds per US dollar - 46 (2000), 46 (1998), 41.9 (January 1997) 
Fiscal year: calendar year 

COMMUNICATIONS

Telephones - main lines in use: 1.313 million (1997) 
Telephones - mobile cellular: NA 
Telephone system: general assessment:  fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology

domestic:  coaxial cable and microwave radio relay network

international:  satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel 
Radio broadcast stations: AM 14, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998) 
Radios: 4.15 million (1997) 
Television broadcast stations: 44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995) 
Televisions: 1.05 million (1997) 
Internet country code: .sy 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000) 
Internet users: 20,000 (2000) 

TRANSPORTATION

Railways: total:  2,750 km

standard gauge:  2,423 km 1.435-m gauge

narrow gauge:  327 km 1.050-m gauge

note:  rail link between Syria and Iraq replaced in 2000 (2000) 
Highways: total:  41,451 km

paved:  9,575 km (including 877 km of expressways)

unpaved:  31,876 km (1997) 
Waterways: 870 km (minimal economic importance) 
Pipelines: crude oil 1,304 km; petroleum products 515 km 
Ports and harbors: Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus 
Merchant marine: total:  133 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 425,392 GRT/612,097 DWT

ships by type:  bulk 11, cargo 117, livestock carrier 4, roll on/roll off 1 (2000 est.) 
Airports: 100 (2000 est.) 
Airports - with paved runways: total:  24

over 3,047 m:  5

2,438 to 3,047 m:  16

914 to 1,523 m:  1

under 914 m:  2 (2000 est.) 
Airports - with unpaved runways: total:  76

1,524 to 2,437 m:  2

914 to 1,523 m:  11

under 914 m:  63 (2000 est.) 
Heliports: 2 (2000 est.) 

MILITARY

Military branches: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force, Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces, Police and Security Force 
Military manpower - military age: 19 years of age 
Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49:  4,384,528 (2001 est.) 
Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49:  2,448,630 (2001 est.) 
Military manpower - reaching military age annually: males:  200,859 (2001 est.) 
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $921 million (FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending 
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 5.9% (FY98) 

TRANSNATIONAL ISSUES

Disputes - international: Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; dispute with upstream riparian Turkey over Turkish water development plans for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; Syrian troops in northern, central, and eastern Lebanon since October 1976 
Illicit drugs: a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets 

Source: Central Intelligence Agency

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