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Regional Conflicts Continue Through the End of the Century
In 1990, President Assad ruled out any possibility of legalizing opposition political parties. In Dec. 1991 voters approved a fourth term for Assad, giving him 99.98% of the vote.
In the 1990s, the slowdown in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was echoed in the lack of progress in Israeli-Syrian relations. Confronted with a steadily strengthening strategic partnership between Israel and Turkey, Syria took steps to construct a countervailing alliance by improving relations with Iraq, strengthening ties with Iran, and collaborating more closely with Saudi Arabia. In Dec. 1999, Israeli-Syrian talks resumed after a nearly four-year hiatus, but they soon broke down over discussions about the Golan Heights.
On June 10, 2000, President Hafez al-Assad died. He had ruled with an iron fist since taking power in a military coup in 1970. His son, Bashar al-Assad, an ophthalmologist by training, succeeded him. He has emulated his father's autocratic rule.
In the summer of 2001, Syria withdrew nearly all of its 25,000 troops from Beirut. Syrian soldiers, however, remained in the Lebanese countryside.