Fifth Basic Principle

The Syrian homeland is that geographic environment in which the Syrian nation evolved. It has distinct natural boundaries and extends from the Taurus range in the northwest and the Zagros mountains in the northeast to the Suez canal and the Red Sea in the south and includes the Sinai peninsula and the gulf of Aqaba, and from the Syrian sea in the west, including the island of Cyprus, to the arch of the Arabian desert and the Persian gulf in the east. (This region is also known as the Syrian Fertile Crescent).

These are the natural boundaries of the Syrian homeland which has housed the elements of the Syrian nation and provided them with the basis of their lives and the opportunity of contact and collision, then mixture and fusion which resulted in the formation of the distinct character of the Syrian nation. The Chaldeans and Assyrians were alive to the internal unity and integrity of this country and sought to unify it politically, interested as they were in the idea of the territorial state. Similarly, all the other people who inhabited this region were conscious of the internal unity of the country and sought to build up confederations between decentralized governments to avoid internal dissension and for protection from external incursions.

The secret of Syria’s persistence as a distinct nation despite the numerous invasions to which it succumbed, lies in the geographic unity of its homeland. It was this geographic unity that ensured the political unity of this country even in environment in which the Syrian nation evolved. It has distinct natural boundaries and extends from the Taurus range in the northwest and the Zagros mountains in the northeast to the Suez canal and the Red Sea in the south and includes the Sinai peninsula and the gulf of Aqaba, and from the Syrian sea in the west, including the island of Cyprus, to the arch of the Arabian desert and the Persian gulf in the east. (This region is also known as the Syrian Fertile Crescent).

These are the natural boundaries of the Syrian homeland which has housed the elements of the Syrian nation and provided them with the basis of their lives and the opportunity of contact and collision, then mixture and fusion which resulted in the formation of the distinct character of the Syrian nation. The Chaldeans and Assyrians were alive to the internal unity and integrity of this country and sought to unify it politically, interested as they were in the idea of the territorial state. Similarly, all the other people who inhabited this region were conscious of the internal unity of the country and sought to build up confederations between decentralized governments to avoid internal dissension and for protection from external incursions.

The secret of Syria’s persistence as a distinct nation despite the numerous invasions to which it succumbed, lies in the geographic unity of its homeland. It was this geographic unity that ensured the political unity of this country even in ancient times when it was still divided among the Canaanites, the Arameans, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans, a political unity which manifested itself in the formation of alliances in the face of threats from Egyptians and other invasions. That unity reached its culmination with the formation of a Seleucid Syrian state, which grew into a powerful empire and dominated Asia Minor and extended as far as India.

Syria’s loss of sovereignty as a consequence of the major foreign invasions resulted in its partition into arbitrary political units. In the Perso-Byzantine period, the Byzantines extended their rule over western Syria and applied the name Syria’ to that part only, while the Persians dominated the eastern part which they called -irah’, later arabicized as Iraq. Similarly, after the First World War the codominium of Great Britain and France over Syria resulted in the partition of the country according to their political aims and interests and gave rise to the present political designations: Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Cilicia and Iraq. Natural Syria consists of all those regions which constitute one geographic-economic-strategic unit. The Syrian Social Nationalist cause will not be fulfilled unless the unity of Syria is achieved.

The partitioning of Syria between the Byzantines and the Persians into Eastern and Western Syria and the creation of barriers between them, retarded considerably, and for a long period, the national growth and the development of the social and economic life cycle of the country. This division resulted also in distorting the truth about the boundaries of Syria. Additional factors contributing to this distortion were: the incursion of the desert upon the lower arch of the Fertile Crescent, the decrease in population, the recession of urban areas (by virtue of constant wars and invasions), and deforestation, all of which made vast areas of the country desolate. The lack of reliable studies pertaining to the cause of this ever increasing drought, which has caused deepening of the arch, has contributed to the view that the expansion of the desert has been a permanent phenomenon. In my studies,I have demonstrated the indisputable unity of the country and examined the arbitrary grounds for its present condition and its partitioning, and established that all the territory to which the term Mesopotamia refers, as far as the Zagros mountains that form the natural boundary separating Eastern Syria from Iran, falls within Syria-

The Syrian homeland is an essential factor in Syrian nationalism. Every Syrian Social Nationalist must be conversant with the boundaries of his beautiful country and keep its picture before his mind. In order to safeguard his right and the rights of his descendants in this wonderful country, he should grasp well the unity of his nation, the community of its rights, and the indivisible unity of its country.

I have indicated in Book One of The Genesis of Nations that the dynamism and vitality of a nation may lead to alteration of its natural boundaries. A strong and ever-growing nation will transcend its frontiers and expand beyond them, whereas a weak and weathering nation will shrink within those frontiers. After the decline and fall of the great Syrian states, the whole Syrian nation was reduced to impotence and recession. It lost the Sinai peninsula to Egypt and Cilicia to Turkey, and shrank within its own natural boundaries, and was finally broken up by the powers which invaded and occupied its territory in whole or in part.

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party symbolizes the resurgence of the Syrian nation, which is bent on recovering its power and vitality and redeeming its dismembered parts.

The Syrian homeland has played a major role in the shaping of the Syrian nation and its character. The internal elements of the Syrian environment provide means of interaction between the various regions. Indeed, if one considers the waterways of Syria, its rivers and streams, one can view the contribution of the physical environment to the formation of one society. Considering that the major part of the history of any human society revolved until recently predominantly around agriculture, the continuity of agricultural space would inevitably invite lines of interaction between human elements within the environment. The courses of the great Syrian rivers, the

Euphrates and the Tigris, are natural couriers of life between western and eastern Syria, and between the northern and southern regions of eastern Syria. The Orontes links the plains of central and northern regions of western Syria while the Litani and Jordan rivers link the central and southern parts. The Mediterranean littoral spreads without interruption over fertile coastal lands from the gulf of Alexandretta to the early shores of the Sinai peninsula.

These internal elements favoring unity of life are paralleled by natural borders that define, albeit relatively, the confines of the society forming herein. The borders of the Syrian Fertile Crescent have limited the extension of continuous life and thus shaped the formation of the nation. These borders, however, were never exclusive. They were in various historical periods overrun in both directions. Syrian commercial colonies from the Assyrian periods have been identified in Anatolia and from the Phoenician periods over much of the Mediterranean. The military might of Assyria extended beyond the Zagros and Taurus mountains to the north and east, and over the Sinai into Egypt. Conversely, the Egyptians often coveted the Syrian coast and the intrusions of the Pharaonic state into western Syria were recurrent. The Gutians, the Kassites, and the Persians crossed the eastern borders when the military preparedness of eastern Syrian states faltered. The Hiftites, the Greeks, the Romans and the Ottomans crossed the northern borders. Despite those recurrent invasions, the life cycle of Syria was never completely linked to that of invading societies and the degree of interaction was limited by the lack of territorial continuity of human settlement and life.

In delineating the western borders of Syria, Saadeh mentions the “Syrian sea”. This terminology is not peculiar to the literature of the SSNP, but has been utilized by European geographers and cartographers. Indeed, a cursory perusal of ancient maps reveals the term to have been used as early as the second century AD by Claudius Ptolemy (Mare Siriacum)-. In the same map, Ptolemy utilizes the term Syria for the western part of the Fertile Crescent in accordance with Roman administrative division, whereas the eastern part is divided into the two regions of Mesopotamia and Babylonia. The practice was continued in Renaissance and sixteenth century maps and Jacob Ziegler (1470-1549) uses the term ‘Mare Syriacum’ in a map of the Holy Land. The term was again used by Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594), the inventor of map projection still used today, as a region of the Mediterranean along the coast of the Holy Land and he extends Coele Syria southward to the entire eastern bank of the Jordan. The German cartographer Tilleman Stella (1525-1589) calls ‘Mare Syrium Phoenicium’ the coast off Syrophoenicia (the coastal area lining the Lebanon mountain chain), a practice followed by the Dutch Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) the publisher of the first world atlas. In a map of the battle of Lepanto between the Ottoman and Venetian fleets in 1571 off the coast of Greece, the Italian Antonio Lafreri (1512-1577) calls the sea between Cyprus and the Syrian coast ‘Pelagus Sirum-Mare di Siria’. The practice was continued by British, Dutch, German and French cartographers until the middle of the 18 th century when one observes the use of ‘ Grande Mer’ and ‘La Mer du Levant’ replacing Syrian sea.

It is instructive to examine one additional aspect of Saadeh’s description of the Syrian homeland, namely his interpretation of the reasons for the distortion of the truth of the eastern expansion of the Syrian homeland to include Mesopotamia. Saadeh hints at the theory of progressive desiccation that has been entertained by some scholars. He does give greater emphasis, however, to the economic consequences of political and social changes. Modern scholarship has confirmed his interpretation, and examples of soil depletion and decline of agriculture as a sequel of political changes abound.