Introduction :: Syria


Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French administered the area as Syria until granting it independence in 1946. The new country lacked political stability and experienced a series of military coups. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights region to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional, albeit unsuccessful, peace talks over its return. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the socialist Ba’ath Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. Following the death of President Hafiz al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops – stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role – were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah. In May 2007, Bashar al-ASAD’s second term as president was approved by popular referendum.

Influenced by major uprisings that began elsewhere in the region, and compounded by additional social and economic factors, antigovernment protests broke out first in the southern province of Dar’a in March 2011 with protesters calling for the repeal of the restrictive Emergency Law allowing arrests without charge, the legalization of political parties, and the removal of corrupt local officials. Demonstrations and violent unrest spread across Syria with the size and intensity of protests fluctuating. The government responded to unrest with a mix of concessions – including the repeal of the Emergency Law, new laws permitting new political parties, and liberalizing local and national elections – and with military force and detentions. The government’s efforts to quell unrest and armed opposition activity led to extended clashes and eventually civil war between government forces, their allies, and oppositionists.

International pressure on the ASAD regime intensified after late 2011, as the Arab League, the EU, Turkey, and the US expanded economic sanctions against the regime and those entities that support it. In December 2012, the Syrian National Coalition, was recognized by more than 130 countries as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. In September 2015, Russia launched a military intervention on behalf of the ASAD regime, and domestic and foreign government-aligned forces recaptured swaths of territory from opposition forces, and eventually the countrys second largest city, Aleppo, in December 2016, shifting the conflict in the regimes favor. The regime, with this foreign support, also recaptured opposition strongholds in the Damascus suburbs and the southern province of Dara in 2018. The government lacks territorial control over much of the northeastern part of the country, which is dominated by the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF has expanded its territorial hold over much of the northeast since 2014 as it has captured territory from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Since 2016, Turkey has also conducted three large-scale military operations into Syria, capturing territory along Syria’s northern border in the provinces of Aleppo, Ar Raqqah, and Al Hasakah. Political negotiations between the government and opposition delegations at UN-sponsored Geneva conferences since 2014 have failed to produce a resolution of the conflict. Since early 2017, Iran, Russia, and Turkey have held separate political negotiations outside of UN auspices to attempt to reduce violence in Syria. According to an April 2016 UN estimate, the death toll among Syrian Government forces, opposition forces, and civilians was over 400,000, though other estimates placed the number well over 500,000. As of December 2019, approximately 6 million Syrians were internally displaced. Approximately 11.1 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance across the country, and an additional 5.7 million Syrians were registered refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and North Africa. The conflict in Syria remains one of the largest humanitarian crises worldwide.

Geography :: Syria


Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

Geographic coordinates

35 00 N, 38 00 E

Map references

Middle East


total: 187,437 sq km

land: 185,887 sq km

water: 1,550 sq km

note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory

Area – comparative

Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 2,343 km

border countries (5): Iraq 599 km, Israel 79 km, Jordan 362 km, Lebanon 394 km, Turkey 909 km


193 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm


mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus


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


mean elevation: 514 m

lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -208 m

highest point: Mount Hermon (Jabal a-Shayk) 2,814 m

Natural resources

petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 75.8% (2011 est.)

arable land: 25.4% (2011 est.) /** permanent crops:** 5.8% (2011 est.) /** permanent pasture:** 44.6% (2011 est.)

forest: 2.7% (2011 est.)

other: 21.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

14,280 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

significant population density along the Mediterranean coast; larger concentrations found in the major cities of Damascus, Aleppo (the country’s largest city), and Hims (Homs); more than half of the population lives in the coastal plain, the province of Halab, and the Euphrates River valley

note: the ongoing civil war has altered the population distribution

Natural hazards

dust storms, sandstorms

volcanism: Syria’s two historically active volcanoes, Es Safa and an unnamed volcano near the Turkish border have not erupted in centuries

Environment – current issues

deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; depletion of water resources; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water

Environment – international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

Geography – note

the capital of Damascus – located at an oasis fed by the Barada River – is thought to be one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities; there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (2017)

People and Society :: Syria


19,398,448 (July 2020 est.)

note: approximately 22,000 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2016)


noun: Syrian(s)

adjective: Syrian

Ethnic groups

Arab ~50%, Alawite ~15%, Kurd ~10%, Levantine ~10%, other ~15% (includes Druze, Ismaili, Imami, Nusairi, Assyrian, Turkoman, Armenian)


Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, English



Age structure

population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 55.4

youth dependency ratio: 47.8

elderly dependency ratio: 7.6

potential support ratio: 13.2 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 23.5 years

male: 23 years

female: 24 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

4.25% NA (2020 est.)

Birth rate

23.8 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Death rate

4.5 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)

Net migration rate

27.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population NA (2020 est.)

Population distribution

significant population density along the Mediterranean coast; larger concentrations found in the major cities of Damascus, Aleppo (the country’s largest city), and Hims (Homs); more than half of the population lives in the coastal plain, the province of Halab, and the Euphrates River valley

note: the ongoing civil war has altered the population distribution


urban population: 55.5% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 1.43% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas – population

2.392 million DAMASCUS (capital), 1.917 million Aleppo, 1.336 million Hims (Homs), 922,000 Hamah (2020)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

31 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 16.5 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 18.1 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 14.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 73.7 years

male: 72.3 years

female: 75.3 years (2020 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.9 children born/woman (2020 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

53.9% (2009)

Drinking water source

improved:** urban:** 99% of population

rural: 99.3% of population

total: 99.4% of population

unimproved:** urban:** 1% of population

rural: 0.7% of population

total: 0.6% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

1.29 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

1.4 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved:** urban:** 99.6% of population

rural: 98.6% of population

total: 99.1% of population

unimproved:** urban:** 0.4% of population

rural: 1.4% of population

total: 0.9% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate

<.1% (2018)

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS

<1000 (2018)

HIV/AIDS – deaths

<100 (2018)

Obesity – adult prevalence rate

27.8% (2016)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

10.2% (2009)

Education expenditures

5.1% of GDP (2009)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 86.4%

male: 91.7%

female: 81% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 9 years

male: 9 years

female: 9 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 35.8%

male: 26.6%

female: 71.1% (2011 est.)

Government :: Syria

Country name

conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic

conventional short form: Syria

local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah

local short form: Suriyah

former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)

etymology: name ultimately derived from the ancient Assyrians who dominated northern Mesopotamia, but whose reach also extended westward to the Levant; over time, the name came to be associated more with the western area

Government type

presidential republic; highly authoritarian regime


name: Damascus

geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E

time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins midnight on the last Friday in March; ends at midnight on the last Friday in October

etymology: Damascus is a very old city; its earliest name, Temeseq, first appears in an Egyptian geographical list of the 15th century B.C., but the meaning is uncertain

Administrative divisions

14 provinces (muhafazat, singular – muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda’, Dar’a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq (Damascus), Halab (Aleppo), Hamah, Hims (Homs), Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus Countryside), Tartus


17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)

National holiday

Independence Day (Evacuation Day), 17 April (1946); note – celebrates the leaving of the last French troops and the proclamation of full independence


history: several previous; latest issued 15 February 2012, passed by referendum and effective 27 February 2012

amendments: proposed by the president of the republic or by one third of the Peoples Assembly members; following review by a special Assembly committee, passage requires at least three-quarters majority vote by the Assembly and approval by the president

Legal system

mixed legal system of civil and Islamic (sharia) law (for family courts)

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICC


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Syria; if the father is unknown or stateless, the mother must be a citizen of Syria

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006)

head of government: Prime Minister Hussein ARNOUS (since 30 August 2020); Deputy Prime Minister Ali Abdullah AYOUB (Gen.) (since 30 August 2020)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 7-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 3 June 2014 (next to be held in June 2021); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers
election results: Bashar al-ASAD elected president; percent of vote – Bashar al-ASAD (Ba’th Party) 88.7%, Hassan al-NOURI (independent) 4.3%, Maher HAJJER (independent) 3.2%, other/invalid 3.8%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral People’s Assembly or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority preferential vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 19 July 2020 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party – NPF 80%, other 20%; seats by party – NPF 200, other 50; composition – men 217, women 33, percent of women 13.2%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Cassation (organized into civil, criminal, religious, and military divisions, each with 3 judges); Supreme Constitutional Court (consists of 7 members)

judge selection and term of office: Court of Cassation judges appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a judicial management body headed by the minister of justice with 7 members, including the national president; judge tenure NA; Supreme Constitutional Court judges nominated by the president and appointed by the SJC; judges serve 4-year renewable terms

subordinate courts: courts of first instance; magistrates’ courts; religious and military courts; Economic Security Court; Counterterrorism Court (established June 2012)

Political parties and leaders

legal parties/alliances: Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party [Bashar al-ASAD, regional secretary]
Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba’th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD]
Arab Socialist Union of Syria or ASU [Safwan al-QUDSI]
National Progressive Front or NPF [Bashar al-ASAD, Suleiman QADDAH] (alliance includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba’th) Party, Socialist Unionist Democratic Party)
Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr al-DIN]
Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]
Syrian Social Nationalist Party or SSNP [Ali HAIDAR]
Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL]

Major Kurdish parties
Kurdish Democratic Union Party or PYD [Shahoz HASAN and Aysha HISSO]
Kurdish National Council [Sa’ud MALA]

other: Syrian Democratic Party [Mustafa QALAAJI]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

Ambassador (vacant)
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: 1 232-6313

FAX: 1 234-9548

note: Embassy ceased operations and closed on 18 March 2014

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); note – on 6 February 2012, the US closed its embassy in Damascus; Czechia serves as a protecting power for US interests in Syria

telephone: 963 3391-4444

embassy: Abou Roumaneh, 2 Al Mansour Street, Damascus

mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus

FAX: 963 3391-3999

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; two small, green, five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; the band colors derive from the Arab Liberation flag and represent oppression (black), overcome through bloody struggle (red), to be replaced by a bright future (white); identical to the former flag of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; the current design dates to 1980

note: similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has an Arabic inscription centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band

National symbol(s)

hawk; national colors: red, white, black, green

National anthem


Economy :: Syria

Economy – overview

Syria’s economy has deeply deteriorated amid the ongoing conflict that began in 2011, declining by more than 70% from 2010 to 2017. The government has struggled to fully address the effects of international sanctions, widespread infrastructure damage, diminished domestic consumption and production, reduced subsidies, and high inflation, which have caused dwindling foreign exchange reserves, rising budget and trade deficits, a decreasing value of the Syrian pound, and falling household purchasing power. In 2017, some economic indicators began to stabilize, including the exchange rate and inflation, but economic activity remains depressed and GDP almost certainly fell.

During 2017, the ongoing conflict and continued unrest and economic decline worsened the humanitarian crisis, necessitating high levels of international assistance, as more than 13 million people remain in need inside Syria, and the number of registered Syrian refugees increased from 4.8 million in 2016 to more than 5.4 million.

Prior to the turmoil, Damascus had begun liberalizing economic policies, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange, but the economy remains highly regulated. Long-run economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, industrial contaction, water pollution, and widespread infrastructure damage.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$50.28 billion (2015 est.)
$55.8 billion (2014 est.)
$61.9 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars
the war-driven deterioration of the economy resulted in a disappearance of quality national level statistics in the 2012-13 period

GDP (official exchange rate)

$24.6 billion (2014 est.)

GDP – real growth rate

-36.5% (2014 est.)
-30.9% (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

GDP – per capita (PPP)

$2,900 (2015 est.)
$3,300 (2014 est.)
$2,800 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving

17% of GDP (2017 est.)
15.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
16.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by end use

household consumption: 73.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 26% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 18.6% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 12.3% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 16.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -46.1% (2017 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 20% (2017 est.)

industry: 19.5% (2017 est.)

services: 60.8% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products

wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk


petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, automobile assembly

Industrial production growth rate

4.3% (2017 est.)

Labor force

3.767 million (2017 est.)

Labor force – by occupation

agriculture: 17%

industry: 16%

services: 67% (2008 est.)

Unemployment rate

50% (2017 est.)
50% (2016 est.)

Population below poverty line

82.5% (2014 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA
highest 10%: NA


revenues: 1.162 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 3.211 billion (2017 est.)

note: government projections for FY2016

Taxes and other revenues

4.2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-8.7% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

94.8% of GDP (2017 est.)
91.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

28.1% (2017 est.)
47.3% (2016 est.)

Current account balance

-$2.123 billion (2017 est.)
-$2.077 billion (2016 est.)


$1.85 billion (2017 est.)
$1.705 billion (2016 est.)

Exports – partners

Lebanon 31.5%, Iraq 10.3%, Jordan 8.8%, China 7.8%, Turkey 7.5%, Spain 7.3% (2017)

Exports – commodities

crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat


$6.279 billion (2017 est.)
$5.496 billion (2016 est.)

Imports – commodities

machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper

Imports – partners

Russia 32.4%, Turkey 16.7%, China 9.5% (2017)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$407.3 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$504.6 million (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt – external

$4.989 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$5.085 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Exchange rates

Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar –
514.6 (2017 est.)
459.2 (2016 est.)
459.2 (2015 est.)
236.41 (2014 est.)
153.695 (2013 est.)

Energy :: Syria

Electricity access

population without electricity: 1 million (2017)

electrification – total population: 92% (2017)
electrification – urban areas: 100% (2017)
electrification – rural areas: 84% (2017)

Electricity – production

17.07 billion kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – consumption

14.16 billion kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – exports

262 million kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – imports

0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – installed generating capacity

9.058 million kW (2016 est.)

Electricity – from fossil fuels

83% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

Electricity – from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from hydroelectric plants

17% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Electricity – from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)

Crude oil – production

25,000 bbl/day (2018 est.)

Crude oil – exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – imports

87,660 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil – proved reserves

2.5 billion bbl (1 January 2018 est.)

Refined petroleum products – production

111,600 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – consumption

134,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)

Refined petroleum products – exports

12,520 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products – imports

38,080 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Natural gas – production

3.738 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – consumption

3.738 billion cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – exports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – imports

0 cu m (2017 est.)

Natural gas – proved reserves

240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2018 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

27.51 million Mt (2017 est.)

Communications :: Syria

Telephones – fixed lines

total subscriptions: 2.74 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 15 (2018 est.)

Telephones – mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 17,129,676

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 97 (2018 est.)

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: the armed insurgency that began in 2011 has led to major disruptions to the network and has caused telephone and Internet outages throughout the country; 2018 saw some stabilizing; telecoms have become decentralized; fairly high mobile penetration of 98%; potential for growth given that subscription numbers are low; remote areas rely on expensive satellite communications; mobile broadband infrastructure is predominantly 3G for about 85% of the population; LTE launched in 2017; Syria has two mobile telephone operators (2020)

domestic: the number of fixed-line connections increased markedly prior to the civil war in 2011 and now stands at 15 per 100; mobile-cellular service stands at about 97 per 100 persons (2018)

international: country code – 963; landing points for the Aletar, BERYTAR and UGART submarine cable connections to Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus; satellite earth stations – 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic’s effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry – mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite – has moderated

Broadcast media

state-run TV and radio broadcast networks; state operates 2 TV networks and 5 satellite channels; roughly two-thirds of Syrian homes have a satellite dish providing access to foreign TV broadcasts; 3 state-run radio channels; first private radio station launched in 2005; private radio broadcasters prohibited from transmitting news or political content (2018)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 6,077,510

percent of population: 34.25% (July 2018 est.)

Broadband – fixed subscriptions

total: 1,328,688

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 7 (2018 est.)

Military and Security :: Syria

Military and security forces

Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Naval Forces, Syrian Air Forces, Syrian Air Defense Forces, National Defense Forces (pro-government militia and auxiliary forces) (2019)

note: the Syrian government is working to demobilize militias or integrate them into its regular forces

Military and security service personnel strengths

N/A; the Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) are rebuilding and trying to integrate government-allied militias and auxiliary forces while continuing to engage in a civil war; prior to the start of the civil war in 2011, the SAF had approximately 300,000 active troops, including 200-225,000 Army; by 2018, its estimated size was reportedly less than 100,000 due to casualties and desertions (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SAF’s inventory is comprised mostly of Russian and Soviet-era equipment; since 2010, Russia has supplied nearly all of Syria’s imported weapons systems, although China and Iran have also provided military equipment (2019 est.)

Military service age and obligation

18-42 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; conscript service obligation is 18 months; women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve (2019)

Military – note

the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has operated in the Golan between Israel and Syria since 1974 to monitor the ceasefire following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and supervise the areas of separation between the two countries; as of October 2019, UNDOF consisted of about 1,140 personnel

Transportation :: Syria

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2015)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 11 (2015)

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 475,932 (2015)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,517,388 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

YK (2016)


90 (2013)

Airports – with paved runways

total: 29 (2013)

over 3,047 m: 5 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 16 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)

under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Airports – with unpaved runways

total: 61 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 12 (2013)

under 914 m: 48 (2013)


6 (2013)


3170 km gas, 2029 km oil (2013)


total: 2,052 km (2014)

standard gauge: 1,801 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2014)


total: 69,873 km (2010)

paved: 63,060 km (2010)

unpaved: 6,813 km (2010)


900 km (navigable but not economically significant) (2011)

Merchant marine

total: 25

by type: bulk carrier 1, general cargo 10, other 14 (2019)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Baniyas, Latakia, Tartus

Terrorism :: Syria

Terrorist groups – home based

al-Nusrah Front: aim(s): overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime, absorb like-minded Syrian rebel groups, and ultimately, establish a regional Islamic caliphate

area(s) of operation: headquartered in the northwestern Idlib Governorate, with a minor presence in Halab Governorate; operational primarily in northern, western, and southern Syria; installs Sharia in areas under its control; targets primarily Syrian regime and pro-regime forces, some minorities, other Syrian insurgent groups, and occasionally Western interests (2018)
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS): aim(s): an alias of the al-Nusrah Front; overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime, absorb like-minded Syrian rebel groups, and, ultimately, establish a regional Islamic caliphate

area(s) of operation: Northwest Syria (2018)
Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS): aim(s): replace the world order with a global Islamic state based in Iraq and Syria; expand its branches and networks in other countries; rule according to ISIS’s strict interpretation of Islamic law

area(s) of operation: ISIS has lost most of the territory it once controlled and now its overt territorial control is limited to pockets of land along the Syria-Iraq border and in southern Syria (2018)

Terrorist groups – foreign based

Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB): aim(s): disrupt and attack Shia Muslim and Western interests in Syria

area(s) of operation: remains operational; conducts attacks against primarily Shia Muslim organizations and individuals, including Hizballah members, and Westerners and their interests (2018)
al-Qa’ida (AQ): aim(s): overthrow President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime; establish a regional Islamic caliphate and conduct attacks outside of Syria

area(s) of operation: operational primarily in Idlib Governorate and southern Syria, where it has established networks and operates paramilitary training camps (2018)
Ansar al-Islam (AAI): aim(s): remove Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD from power and establish a government operating according to sharia

area(s) of operation: operationally active in Syria since 2011; launches attacks on Syrian Government security forces and pro-Syrian Government militias; some AAI factions combat ISIS, while others are aligned with ISIS (2018)
Hizballah: aim(s): preserve Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime

area(s) of operation: operational activity throughout the country since 2012; centered on providing paramilitary support to President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime against armed insurgents (2018)
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF): aim(s): assist government forces in suppressing opposition forces and Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) forces; train Syrian Government troops; conduct strikes against Israel; funnel arms and money onward to Lebanese Hizballah

area(s) of operations: throughout Syria
Kata’ib Hizballah (KH): aim(s): preserve Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime

area(s) of operation: deploys combatants to Syria to fight alongside Syrian Government and Lebanese Hizballah forces (2018)
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK): aim(s): advance Kurdish autonomy, political, and cultural rights in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran

area(s) of operation: operational in the north and east; majority of members inside Syria are Syrian Kurds, along with Kurds from Iran, Iraq, and Turkey (2018)
Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC): aim(s): destroy the state of Israel; enhance its networks in Syria

area(s) of operation: maintains limited networks for operational planning against Israel (2018)
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF): aim(s): enhances its networks and, ultimately, destroy the state of Israel and establish a secular, Marxist Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital

area(s) of operation: maintains a recruitment and training presence in many refugee camps (2018)
PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC): aim(s): preserve Syrian President Bashar al-ASAD’s regime

area(s) of operation: maintains a political base in Damascus; fights with President al-ASAD’s forces and Hizballah in areas where anti-regime paramilitary groups are active (2018)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): aim(s): enhance its recruitment networks in Syria

area(s) of operation: maintains a recruitment and limited training presence in several refugee camps (2018)

Transnational Issues :: Syria

Disputes – international

Golan Heights is Israeli-controlled with an almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shab’a Farms in the Golan Heights; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation would settle border dispute with Jordan

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 15,699 (Iraq) (2018); 562,312 (Palestinian Refugees) (2020)

IDPs: 6.1 million (ongoing civil war since 2011) (2020)
stateless persons: 160,000 (2018); note – Syria’s stateless population consists of Kurds and Palestinians; stateless persons are prevented from voting, owning land, holding certain jobs, receiving food subsidies or public healthcare, enrolling in public schools, or being legally married to Syrian citizens; in 1962, some 120,000 Syrian Kurds were stripped of their Syrian citizenship, rendering them and their descendants stateless; in 2011, the Syrian Government granted citizenship to thousands of Syrian Kurds as a means of appeasement; however, resolving the question of statelessness is not a priority given Syria’s ongoing civil war

note: the ongoing civil war has resulted in more than 5.5 million registered Syrian refugees – dispersed in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey – as of September 2020

Trafficking in persons

current situation: as conditions continue to deteriorate due to Syrias civil war, human trafficking has increased; Syrians remaining in the country and those that are refugees abroad are vulnerable to trafficking; Syria is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Syrian children continue to be forcibly recruited by government forces, pro-regime militias, armed opposition groups, and terrorist organizations to serve as soldiers, human shields, and executioners; ISIL forces Syrian women and girls and Yazidi women and girls taken from Iraq to marry its fighters, where they experience domestic servitude and sexual violence; Syrian refugee women and girls are forced into exploitive marriages or prostitution in neighboring countries, while displaced children are forced into street begging domestically and abroad

tier rating: Tier 3 – the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, Syrias violent conditions enabled human trafficking to flourish; the government made no effort to investigate, prosecute, or convict trafficking offenders or complicit government officials, including those who forcibly recruited child soldiers; authorities did not identify victims and failed to ensure victims, including child soldiers, were protected from arrest, detention, and severe abuse as a result of being trafficked (2015)

Illicit drugs

a transit point for opiates, hashish, and cocaine bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money laundering


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