Friday, December 5, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 16: 1954 to 1956 Period

Prior to the September 1954 parliamentary election in Syria, the Communist Party of Syria—whose “support came mainly from the professional classes”—had called for “a national front” in Syria “of all `enemies of feudalism, reaction and imperialism,” according to Patrick Seale’s The Struggle for Syria;” and the Communist Party of Syria’s leader, Khalid Bakdash, became the first member of a Communist Party within the Arab world to be elected as a member of an Arab parliament, as a result of the 1954 democratic election in Syria, by polling “the third highest vote total in Damascus,” according to the same book.

The anti-imperialist, socialist but non-communist, pan-Arab nationalist Baath Party candidates in Syria, however, won the support of more Syrian voters in 1954 than did the Communist Party; while the Communist Party gained 1 seat in the Syrian parliament, 22 Baath Party candidates were elected to the Syrian parliament as a result of the September 1954 democratic election. As David Lesch’s Syria and The United States observed, “out of 142 seats, the Baath Party gained an unprecedented 22 seats, increasing its strength from 5 percent in the old parliament to 15 percent in the new.” But the vote received by the Syrian Communist Party, the Syrian Baath Party and most of the other Syrian parties “marked the triumph of neutralism and the rejection of formal ties” with Western imperialist powers like the United States, France and the UK, according to The Struggle for Syria; and on Nov. 3, 1954 an anti-imperialist, neutralist Syrian nationalist government was formed by Faris al-Khoury.

In response, the Republican Eisenhower administration apparently began to provide covert support for the anti-Baath, more right-wing Syrian Social Nationalist Party. And after the pro-Baath Deputy Chief of Staff of the Syrian Army, Adnan al-Malki, indicated that he opposed the U.S. and UK government-promoted Baghdad Pact, which sought to align Arab governments into a military alliance with the U.S. and UK governments, Syria and The United States noted what happened to al-Malki:

“On Apr. 22, 1955 the most influential officer in the Syrian army and a staunch Baathist supporter, Colonel ‘Adnan al-Malki, was assassinated. He was gunned down while attending a soccer match in Damascus by an individual identified as a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party [SSNP]…The SSNP had a history of overt and covert contacts with the West, including the United States…”

So, to prevent a right-wing, pro-U.S. government coup in Syria in the Spring of 1955, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party [SSNP] was then outlawed by the Syrian government.

On Aug. 18, 1955 a presidential election was then held in Syria which was won by the former Syrian civilian president of the late 1940s--Shukri Quwatli--who was backed by conservative Syrian nationalist civilian politicians. But, in response, on Sept. 6, 1955 the less politically conservative, pan-Arab nationalist Baath members of the Syrian parliament ended their parliamentary support for the non-partisan coalition government that had governed Syria since late 1954; and on Sept. 13, 1955 a new coalition government in Syria was established, with Said al-Ghazzi as its Prime Minister.

Then “from September 1955 to June 1956, Soviet arms started reaching Syria in substantial quantities and teams of Syrian officers began going for training behind the iron curtain,” while within Syria “four daily newspapers” were now allowed to print Syrian “Communist views,” according to The Struggle for Syria.

But on June 3, 1956 the Syrian coalition government of Said al-Ghazzi fell “when Syrian university students stormed and occupied” a government ministry building “to protest against the revision of a ban on wheat shipments to France and Algeria (which had not yet won its independence from France),” according to the same book. And after June 28, 1956 the pan-Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist (but non-communist) Syrian Baath party’s demand for the unification of Syria with an Egypt that was governed by the anti-imperialist (but non-communist) Nasser regime began to gain more popular support within Syria.

So, not surprisingly, in July 1956 the exiled U.S. and UK government-backed former Syrian dictator who had been overthrown by the Feb. 25, 1954 military coup, Adib al-Shishakli “arrived clandestinely” and “presided over a number of meetings attended by the leading conspirators…at which Ghassan Jadid outlined their plans for a coup,” according to The Struggle for Syria. As the same book also recalled:

“Britain and the United States were by this time fully appraised of what was going on. The conspirators are believed to have approached British representatives in Beirut with requests for help as early as March 1956.

“By midsummer an Anglo-American-Iraqi (which still was ruled by a pro-imperialist UK-backed monarchical regime at that time) committee had been set up in Beirut to exchange intelligence, consider the international aspects of the plot, and examine plans and suggestions put up to it by the Syrians…Britain and the United States…also contributed money and arms…”

(end of part 16)

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