Focus Group Middle East:

Syria has long roots in the Islamic world, having been home to the Umayyad Empire back during the infancy of the Islam.  Today Syria is one of the main pillars of the Arabic world, as its size and proximity to Israel give it a powerful influence on regional politics. Since Syria has been ruled by the firm hand of Hafez al-Asad.  Syria has fought three wars with Israel yet still has overall lost territory and is poor and underdeveloped; the country has few national roots and its bickering religions held together more by brute force than anything else.  Syria has been ruled by dictator Asad -- the "Lion of Damascus" -- for many years, and his will is law in a nation that is both centrally located and crucial to the peace process in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbors.  Syria is not powerful enough to sway Middle East politics to its desire, but neither can real be achieved without her.

Questions to keep in mind:   What are the major religions in Syria?  To which religion does Hafez al-Assad belong?  What religion represents the countryside, which the city? To what religion do the Muslim Brotherhood, Assad's enemy, belong?  To what religion do most of the Baath political party belong?  How has religion changed how Assad rules his country?  Why is Syria a "fragile" country?  Why is Assad referred to as the "Lion of Damascus?"  What happened in Hama in 1982?  Why is Assad so determined to get the Golan Heights back?  How does Assad view Israel?  Is Assad for Arab unity, or is he our for Syria's own specific interests? Has Assad used terrorism to gain his political goals? If so, when?  Which Arab countries has Assad opposed in the Middle East?  Why? What have been the goals of Hafez al-Assad since he first seized power in 1970? What does he want from current peace negotiations with Israel?  What does Israel want from Syria?  How is Assad's health at this time?

Start here and read everything at: Israel and Lebanon at Yahoo!  Also check out all the links at Open Directory's Syria and Lebanon sections.  Get good basic Syrian and Lebanese information at the CIA World Factbook.  Range wide and far over the World Wide Web in search of information!  

 This is also a good general link about Syria and its leader, Hafez al-AssadAnother good general Syria link.

This is a good general link about Lebanon, as is this one.

Summation of recent peace talks with news analysis. Understand the importance of the Golan Heights to Syria.  Understand the violence between Israel and Lebanon, as seen in the "Israeli jets strike southern Lebanon after guerrilla attacks" and "Guerrillas wound two pro-Israeli militiamen."

Inside Syria -- Robert speaks with Howard Schneider, Middle East Correspondent for the Washington Post, about Syrian reaction to the postponement of the peace talks. Schneider is based in Damascus, Syria. (4:30)

Next, check out there recent Newshour with Jim Lehr links dealing with the very important Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations:

Update: Path to Peace  Joel Singer, former legal adviser to Yitzhak Rabin and negotiator of the Oslo Accords for Israel; and Hisham Melham, Washington-based correspondent for As-Safir, a Lebanese newspaper, discuss the recess declared in the Syrian-Israeli talks held in Sheperdstown, W. Va

January 3, 2000 -- New Round of Peace Talks David Makovsky, executive editor of The Jerusalem Post; and Hisham Melham, correspondent for the Beirut newspaper As-Safir, give an update on the ongoing negotiations.

December 16, 1999 -- Israel-Syria Peace Talks Wrap Up Joel Singer, former negotiator in the Israeli peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Syria, and Hisham Melhem, Washington correspondent for the Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir, discuss today’s developments in the peace talks between Israel and Syria.

December 15, 1999 -- Israel-Syria Peace Talks Joel Singer, former negotiator in the Israeli peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Syria; and Hisham Melhem, Washington correspondent for the Lebanese Daily newspaper As-Safir, discuss the current peace talks between Israel and Syria.

December 9, 1999 -- Path to Peace Yitshak Barak

July 19, 1999 -- The Search for Peace Experts discuss the prospects for peace under the new Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak.


April 26, 1996 -- Ceasefire Israel and Syria reach a ceasefire in Lebanon.

April 18, 1996 -- Lebanon Tragedy 75 people die after Israeli planes hit a UN compound in southern Lebanon.

April 16, 1996 -- Border Conflict Fighting escalates at the Israel-Lebanon border.

April 15, 1996 -- Combat Zone Fighting continues in southern Lebanon

April 12, 1996 -- Israeli-Lebanese Tensions As fighting escalates on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, so does the intensity of the political rhetoric.