By Aboul-Enein, Youssef
Infantry , Vol. 94, No. 6
A t the request of the late President Hafiz Al-Asad in 1986, the first of three volumes on the history of the Syrian Army was published in 2000 titled History of the Syrian Arab Army/Al-Tareekh Al-Jaish Al-Arabi Al-Soori and edited by General Mustafa Tlas. Volume 1: 1901-1948 was produced by the Center for Military Studies in Damascus, Syria. The first volume is 568 pages and covers the Arab;-Revolt, short-lived monarchy under King Feisal bin Hussein, the French Mandate the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and finally Syrian independence 1949. Volume 2 will detail the army's history from 1949 to 1970 and include chapters on the 1958 union with Egypt and the 1970 coup that brought Hafez al-Asad to power. The contents of the second volume are expected to be politically charged as baathist Nasserist, and Socialist officers vied for control of Syria in 1960s. The third volume covers the period from 1973 to 2000, and will include the Syrian army's role in the 1973 Yom-Kippur War and its intervention in Lebanon. No mention is made of Syria's role in Operation Desert Storm. Thus far only the first volume had been available in the United States it is not clear whether the two other volumes have been published.
This essay focuses primarily on the prussianization and nationalization of Arab officers during the late Ottoman period, the Arab Revolt (1916-1918), the five-month period in which Syria was under Arab rule in 1920, and finally the Battle of Maysalun that enforced the French mandate on Syria in 1920 and is considered by Syrian militarj| decision-makefe as their Alamo. This is a major work of modern Arab military. history. Little is known about the Syrian armed forces, and this volume demonstrates aspects of its history that are important to the Syrian military leadership. This review translates and analyzes excerpts of the first volume and represents the view of history from the Syrian military perspective. To get a fuller view of the Arab Revolt, readers should explore British, French, and Arabic accounts. Perhaps one of the best articles in English detailing the Arab Revolt was written by Major Maxwell Orme Johnson entitled, "The Arab Bureau and the Arab Revolt: Yanbu to Aqaba," which was published in the December 1982 edition of Military Affairs (Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 194-201).
The Ottoman Period (1901-1918)
Upon the accession of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II in 1876, the Sultan at first accepted the constitution promulgated by Midhat Pasha that same year. (Pasha is an honorific title from the Ottoman period it was a title earned for meritorious service and later became a purchased title.) Although this constitution was later suspended by the Sultan, who then had Midhat Pasha executed, it is significant because it allowed Arab subjects to enter Turkish military academies and shools. This produced an entire generation of Arab officers who would play key roles in the Arab Revolt and the independence movements of Syria and Iraq. These Arab officers were trained by German military instructors and came to realize they could take advantage of a weakened Ottoman Empire to press for Arab nationalist causes. Among the officers named in the book.
Sami Pasha AlFarooki: Commanded irregular Arab forces at Jebel Arab in the Levant.
* Jameel Al-Midfaee: Studied military engineering in World War I and fought against Alten'by's forces in Palestine, before switching sides and joining the Arab Revolt and organizing Prince Feisal's artillery regiments.
* Aziz Al-Masry: Organized the first cells of Arab officers within the OtlQnWan Army, became commander in chief of Prince Feisal's army, and was an important Arab nationalist figure.
* Zaki Al-Halaby: Rose from cadet to Bikbaasi (lieutenant Colonel), became Ottoman military governor in Yemen and in 1914 commander of Arab-Ottoman forces in Syria.
* Yasin Al-Hashimi: Rose to become chief of staff of the 12th Ottoman Division along the Qifqaas Front.
* Ali Rida Pasha Al-Rikabi: Commanded an Ottoman brigade in World War I and received the surrender of the city of Damascus from its last Ottoman governor Mohammed Djemal Pasha Al-Saagheer in 1918. …