The World Factbook (1990)/Syria

The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 302–303


World Factbook (1990) Syria.jpg

 See regional map VI


Total area: 185,180 km²; land area: 184,050 km² (including 1,295 km² of Israeli-occupied territory)

Comparative area: slightly larger than North Dakota

Land boundaries: 2,253 km total; Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km

Coastline: 193 km

Maritime claims:

Contiguous zone: 6 nm beyond territorial sea limit
Territorial sea: 35 nm

Disputes: separated from Israel by the 1949 Armistice Line; Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; Hatay question with Turkey; periodic disputes with Iraq over Euphrates water rights; ongoing dispute over water development plans by Turkey for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; Kurdish question among Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and the USSR

Climate: mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast

Terrain: primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west

Natural resources: crude oil, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum

Land use: 28% arable land; 3% permanent crops; 46% meadows and pastures; 3% forest and woodland; 20% other; includes 3% irrigated

Environment: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Note: there are 35 Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights


Population: 12,483,440 (July 1990), growth rate 3.8% (1990); in addition, there are 13,500 Druze and 10,500 Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

Birth rate: 44 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 6 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 38 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 68 years male, 70 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 6.7 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Syrian(s); adjective—Syrian

Ethnic divisions: 90.3% Arab; 9.7% Kurds, Armenians, and other

Religion: 74% Sunni Muslim; 16% Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects; 10% Christian (various sects); tiny Jewish communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo

Language: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian; French widely understood

Literacy: 49%

Labor force: 2,400,000; 36% miscellaneous and government services, 32% agriculture, 32% industry and construction); majority unskilled; shortage of skilled labor (1984)

Organized labor: 5% of labor force


Long-form name: Syrian Arab Republic

Type: republic; under leftwing military regime since March 1963

Capital: Damascus

Administrative divisions: 14 provinces (muḩāfaz̧at, singular—muḩāfaz̧ah); Al Ḩasakah, Al Lādhiqīyah, Al Qunayţirah. Ar Raqqah, As Suwayd’ā, Dar‘ā, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Ḩalab, Ḩamāh, Ḩimş, Idlib, Madīnat Dimashq, Ţarţūs

Independence: 17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration); formerly United Arab Republic

Constitution: 13 March 1973

Legal system: based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: National Day, 17 April (1946)

Executive branch: president, three vice presidents, prime minister, three deputy prime ministers, Council of Ministers (cabinet)

Legislative branch: unicameral People's Council (Majlis ash Sha’ab)

Judicial branch: Supreme Constitutional Court, High Judicial Council, Court of Cassation, State Security Courts

Leaders: Chief of State—President Lt. Gen. Hafiz al-ASSAD (since 22 February 1971); Vice Presidents ‘Abd al-Halim KHADDAM, Dr. Rif‘at al-ASSAD, and Muhammad Zuhayr MASHARIQA (since 11 March 1984);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Mahmud ZU‘BI (since 1 November 1987); Deputy Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984)

Political parties and leaders: ruling party is the Arab Socialist Resurrectionist (Ba‘th) Party; the Progressive National Front is dominated by Ba‘thists but includes independents and members of the Syrian Arab Socialist Party (ASP), Arab Socialist Union (ASU), Socialist Unionist Movement, and Syrian Communist Party (SCP)

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held 10-11 February 1985 (next to be held February 1992); results—President Hafiz al-Assad was reelected without opposition;

People's Council—last held 10-11 February 1986 (next to be held 22 May 1990); results—Ba‘th 66%, ASU 5%, SCP 5%, Socialist Unionist Movement 4%, ASP 2%, independents 18%; seats—(195 total) Ba‘th 129, Communist 9, ASU 9, Socialiist Unionist Movement 8, ASP 5, independents 35; the People's Council will have 250 seats total in the 22 May 1990 election

Communists: mostly sympathizers, numbering about 5,000

Other political or pressure groups: non-Ba‘th parties have little effective political influence; Communist party ineffective; greatest threat to Assad regime lies in factionalism in the military; conservative religious leaders; Muslim Brotherhood

Member of: Arab League, CCC, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB—Islamic Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOOC, IPU, ITU, IWC—International Wheat Council, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WSG, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Minister-Counselor, Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Bushra KANAFANI; Chancery at 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 232-6313; US Ambassador Edward P. DJEREJIAN; Embassy at Abu Rumaneh, Al Mansur Street No.2, Damascus (mailing address is P. O. Box 29, Damascus); telephone [963](11) 333052 or 332557, 330416, 332814, 332315

Flag: 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 flags of the YAR which has one star and Iraq which has three stars (in a horizontal line centered in the white band) all green and five-pointed; also similar to the flag of Egypt which has a symbolic eagle centered in the white band


Overview: Syria's rigidly structured Ba‘thist economy is turning out roughly the same amount of goods in 1989 as in 1983, when the population was 20% smaller. Economic difficulties are attributable, in part, to severe drought in several recent years, costly but unsuccessful attempts to match Israel's military strength, a falloff in Arab aid, and insufficient foreign exchange earnings to buy needed inputs for industry and agriculture. Socialist policy, embodied in a thicket of bureaucratic regulations, in many instances has driven away or pushed underground the mercantile and entrepreneurial spirit for which Syrian businessmen have long been famous. Two bright spots: a sizable number of villagers have benefited from land redistribution, electrification, and other rural development programs; and a recent find of light crude oil has enabled Syria to cut back its substantial imports of light crude. A long-term concern is the additional drain of upstream Euphrates water by Turkey when its vast dam and irrigation projects are completed toward the end of the 1990s.

GDP: $18.5 billion, per capita $1,540; real growth rate -2% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 70% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget: revenues $NA; expenditures $3.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.92 billion (1989)

Exports: $1.3 billion (f.o.b., 1988 est.); commodities—petroleum, textiles, fruits and vegetables, phosphates; partners—Italy, Romania, USSR, US, Iran, France

Imports: $1.9 billion (f.o.b., 1988 est.); commodities—petroleum, machinery, base metals, foodstuffs and beverages; partners—Iran, FRG, USSR, France, GDR, Libya, US

External debt: $5.3 billion in hard currency (1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%

Electricity: 2,867,000 kW capacity; 6,000 million kWh produced, 500 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, petroleum

Agriculture: accounts for 27% of GDP and one-third of labor force; all major crops (wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas) grown on rainfed land causing wide swings in yields; animal products—beef, lamb, eggs, poultry, milk; not self-sufficient in grain or livestock products

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-81), $538 million; Western (non-US) ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $1.0 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $12.3 billion; Communist countries (1970-88), $3.3 billion

Currency: Syrian pound (plural—pounds); 1 Syrian pound (£S) = 100 piasters

Exchange rates: Syrian pounds (£S) per US$1—11.2250 (fixed rate since 1987), 3.9250 (fixed rate 1976-87)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 2,241 km total; 1,930 km standard gauge, 311 km 1.050-meter narrow gauge; note—the Tartus-Latakia line is nearly complete

Highways: 27,000 km total; 21,000 km paved, 3,000 km gravel or crushed stone, 3,000 km improved earth

Inland waterways: 672 km; of little economic importance

Pipelines: 1,304 km crude oil; 515 km refined products

Ports: Tartus, Latakia, Baniyas

Merchant marine: 19 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 53,938 GRT/72,220 DWT; includes 16 cargo, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 1 bulk

Civil air: 35 major transport aircraft

Airports: 97 total, 94 usable; 24 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 21 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 5 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement; 512,600 telephones; stations—9 AM, 1 FM, 40 TV; satellite earth stations 1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT earth station, with 1 Intersputnik station under construction; 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon (inactive)

Defense Forces

Branches: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Air Force, Syrian Arab Navy

Military manpower: males 15-49, 2,712,360; 1,520,798 fit for military service; 144,791 reach military age (19) annually

Defense expenditures: NA