Syria in the Second World War

Syria was part of the Turkish Empire until 1918. The French Army entered Syria in 1922 and expelled the Arab leader Emir Feisal. France claimed that Syria fell into its sphere of influence as defined in the Sykes-Picot agreement.

The Syrians resented the presence of French troops and the Druse Insurrection (1925-27) forced them to withdraw from the capital, Damascus. Negotiations took place and in 1939 the French government promised Syria her independence.

The Vichy government kept troops in Syria during the Second World War. Its position on the Eastern Mediterranean coast made it strategically important for both Britain and Nazi Germany. The Allies also feared that Henri-Philippe Petain would allow the Luftwaffe to establish air bases in the country.

On 8th June 1941 the British Army and Free French forces entered Syria from Iraq and Palestine. After facing tough resistance from the Vichy forces the Allies captured Damascus on 17th June. The armistice was signed on 12th July and pro-British regimes were maintained in Syria for the rest of the war.