Elections in Iraq and Palestine, open political demonstrations
in Lebanon, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have indicated
a wider role for democracy in Middle East politics. Syria, has a checkered history
of cooperation and conflict with its neighbors. In 2008, Syria formalized diplomatic ties with neighboring Lebonon. In 2007, the United Nations Secretary General wanted to monitor the situation along the entire Syria-Lebanon border and report the findings. The U.S. found itself
in the middle of a diplomatic firestorm after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a proponent of a democratic Lebanon and a critic
of Syrian occupation. In September of 2004, French and American U.N. officials
were able to pass U.N. Resolution 1559, which called for the removal of Syrian
forces and the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. The resolution
had no strict timetable but with the assassination of Hariri, pressure has been
stepped up to force Syria to honor the independent sovereignty of Lebanon, remove
all Syrian troops expeditiously, remove Syria's intelligence agents, and disarm
and dismantle foreign and domestic militias operating in Lebanon.
lesson will help students understand the role Syria has played in Middle East
politics over the past century and how now it might be at a crossroads of fulfilling
it's goals for a pan-Arab state and preserving its very survival. By developing
a timeline on Syrian history and examining historical maps, students will gain
an understanding of how Syria has had to adjust to outside influence and pressure
against its goals.
third lesson has students examining in detail a regional map at the Newshour's
"Syria's Role in the Middle East" Web site at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/syria/map_flash.html to look closely at Syria's relationship with it neighbors and the United States.
make these lesson plans better
to National Standards
I: Historical Background - Syrian Timeline Dates
In this activity, students
will construct a brief timeline showing Syria's ancient history, modern development
since WWI, and most recent role in the region since 1970's.
1. After dividing
the class into groups of three, pass out the Timeline Handout to all students.
Have them review the directions and then have them go to various history or current
news sources for the information. After they have completed their timeline they
can come together in a large group to complete the discussion questions.
on this printer-friendly PDF for answers to the timeline: Timeline Key Answers
to the timeline can be found by clicking on this printer-friendly PDF, Timeline
Key, except where indicated below.
following dates should be on the students' timelines:
A. 1216 - 1516
N. 1989 Syria endorses
the Taif accord
P. 2001 Syrian President Hafez al Assad dies
and his son Bashar Assad takes over
Q. 2003 opposes U.S. invasion of Iraq
September, 2004 U.N. resolution 1559 is passed calling for withdrawal of Syrian
troops from Lebanon
S. February, 2005 Syria is implicated in the assassination
of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
T. July, 2006 Conflict with Israel and Lebanon
U. May, 2008 Sectarian violence breaks out between Hezbollah and Sunnis.
II: Historical Maps of Syria
1. In which of these events does Syria seem to play a cooperative
role with its neighbors or the international community?
2. In which of these
events does Syria seem to be in conflict with its neighbors or the international
3. What patterns are evident in this behavior?
4. Is Syria in
a stronger or weaker position now to cooperate with its neighbors and the international
community than it was in the 1970s and 80s?
out the handout reading "Syrian History After World War I" and
have students read and briefly answer the questions at the bottom of the handout.
Pass out copies of the map on the Ottoman Empire on the eve of WWI found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/maps/ottoman.htm Have students trace the outline of the Empire and identify the current Middle
East countries that were contained in the Empire.
3. Pass out the handout
map on the Picot-Sykes agreement found at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~gov46/sykes-picot-1916.gif and have students identify the current Middle East countries the French and British
planned to control after WWI. Then have them draw in the general area of Greater
Syria designed by the General Syrian Congress as described in the reading.
Have students answer the following questions in discussion:
- How might the implementation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement leave Arabs with bitterness
against the West?
do nations like Syria continue to position themselves in order to create a pan-Arab
has western and particularly U.S. support for Israel over Arab interests further
aggravated their relationship with Syria and other Arab countries?
World War II, why haven't the nations of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq been
able to unite into a single force?
III: Syria's Relations with its Neighbors and the United States
activity, students will examine the NewsHour Interactive Map on Syria (found at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/syria/map_flash.html),
gleaning information about Syria's relationship with its neighbors and the U.S.
They will analyze the actions Syria is taking that improve and jeopardize these
Divide the class into six groups and assign each one of the following PDF segments
of questions on Syria's relationship with its neighbors and the U.S.
F. United States
Direct students to the NewsHour's "Syria's Role in the Middle East: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/syria/index.html.
Instruct each group to click to their assigned country to gather information to
complete the content questions. (Students assigned the questions on the U.S. -
Syrian relationship will click the link "U.S.-Syrian Relations.")
After the students have completed their work give them some time to review their
4. Gather the students in a large group to review the Discussion
Questions at the end of the lesson.
Have students explore more in depth the relationship Syria has with radical groups
like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Good information can be found at FRONTLINE/WORLD
"Lebanon - Party of God" http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/lebanon/history.html.
Develop information posters that present information about Hezbollah's goals and
relationship with Syria.
Trace the details of the Sykes-Picot Agreement developed in 1916. Research the
Allied rationale for this division of the Middle East looking at the resource
distribution, ethnic divisions and geo-political conditions of the time.
Divide the class into six groups assigning one of Syria's bordering countries
to each group and one group to research Syria. Students can refer to the CIA Fact
Book at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
Have students research the basic facts of each country (location, resources, population,
system of government, religion/ethnic groups, etc) and develop posters. Hang the
bordering countries posters along the walls of the classroom and place the poster
of Syria in the middle of the room. Provide each group with a dark and light colored
crepe paper roll. By reviewing the main historical events presented the lesson
activities above in "Syria's Role in the Middle East," have students
from the bordering countries string a light streamer for a positive or supporting
event in their relationship with Syria and a dark streamer for a negative event.
Have each group explain what the event was that was either positive or negative.
Then look at the posters' facts for economic, social or political areas of interest
and discuss how the two countries could bring out their common areas and minimize