Syria, branded by the U.S. Government as a "state sponsor of terrorism," is a single-party dictatorship ruled since 1970 by Hafez al-Assad and, following his death in 2000, by his son Bashar. But this nation bordered by Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, despite the lack of any significant oil reserves, is both a strategic and a besieged country. Syria is simultaneously a player and a pawn in the geopolitical "chess match" that characterizes the Middle East today.
SYRIA: CHESS MATCH AT THE BORDERS chronicles the historical background to this situation, focusing on the three Arab-Israeli wars-in 1948, 1967 and 1973-that have convulsed the region. The legacy of these wars for Syria, including an influx of Palestinian refugees, Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights, and the enmity of successive U.S. Administrations that support Israel, is shown to serve as a national rallying cry and an obstacle to diplomatic relations.
The film also examines tensions on Syria's other borders, including the northern province of Iskenderum, annexed by Turkey in 1939, where disputes over water resources and Syria's support of Kurdish rebels inflame relations with Turkey. Syria's self-styled and controversial role as "protector" of Lebanon, through the deployment of army troops and its secret service, and its alleged assassination of independent Lebanese politicians to assure its continued political and economical control of that nation, is also critically examined.
SYRIA also looks at the political instability created by the U.S. occupation of Iraq, with the influx of millions of Iraqi refugees into Syria, what it sees as the virtual creation of a "common border" with America, and Syria's collusion with Iran in the financing and arming of the resistance forces in Iraq.
Visually enriched by archival footage and contemporary scenes, SYRIA: CHESS MATCH AT THE BORDERS features interviews with ordinary Syrian citizens as well as an impressive array of political leaders, journalists, economists, diplomats, and academics from throughout the region. Their informed and sometimes revelatory comments illuminate the high-stakes geopolitical maneuvers involving Syria in the contemporary Middle East.
"Recommended. A nice addition to college level collections in Middle Eastern studies." —Educational Media Reviews Online
"An excellent geopolitical lesson... this efficient educational documentary provides indispensable keys." —Télérama