Middle East Studies

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Syria and the Doctrine of Arab Neutralism

From Independence to Dependence

Author Text to Follow

This book examines the modern history of post-mandatory Syria. The evolution of the Syrian ideology and policy of neutralism since the early stages of the Cold War is explained, and the effects that Arab neutralism had on shaping Syria’s foreign policy and the shaping of its national identity are identified.

The phenomenon of Arab neutralism has never before been comprehensively investigated. The prevailing belief is that the formulation and realization of the policy of anti-alignment began only during Nasser’s first years in power in Egypt. However, the author demonstrates that the roots of neutralism were already sown in Arab soil in the early 1940s, and that successive Syrian governments carved out this policy during the final stages of World War II.

A core issue in the analysis is the dynamic between ideology and policy. A conceptual framework is developed to explain the various patterns of neutralism that emerged, and the complex of relationships between features exhibited by Syria, the Arab world, and the Third World. The book makes extensive use of newly declassified material gleaned from archives in India, the former USSR, Poland, Britain, the United States and Israel; primary sources, studied and interpreted in the original Arabic, are also widely utilized.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-008-8
Hardback Price: ££55.00 / $69.50
Release Date: September 2004
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-396-6
Paperback Price: £22.95 / $35.00
Release Date: February 2010
Page Extent / Format: 332 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Introduction Neutralism in Retrospect: Definitions and Paradigms

1 Syria's Road to Independence: The Emergence of Pragmatic/Calculative Nationalist Neutralism

2 The Rise of "Anti-Western Neutralism" in Post-Mandatory Syria

3 Neutralism in Practice: Syria and the Consolidation of the Arab-Asian Group

4 Communism, Syria, and Neutralist Trends

5 Syria's Rival Schools of Neutralism and the Road to Union

6 Nasserite "Positive Neutralism" and the United Arab Republic

Conclusion The Rise of the Neo-Ba'th and the Gradual Demise of Neutralism

Appendix Modes of Practised Arab Neutralism

The author focuses on Syria’s ‘multi-faceted character,’ which shaped its foreign policy toward the West in general and the US in particular. Ginat addresses the internal politics that helped shape Syria’s policy of neutralism as well as actions taken by foreign countries toward Syria, which forced it to adopt unfavorable positions toward the West … Syria began to resent the West and started to embrace the Soviet Union to protect its interests and receive aid with no strings attached… Recommended.

This publication provides a valuable, accessible, and note-worthy portrait of Syria’s political position within Arab countries, the third world, and the context of an East–West power struggle in post-mandate Syria … The Conclusion of Ginat’s book details the “rise of neo-Ba’th and the gradual demise of neutralism” (p.220). In this section, Syria’s political positioning from the mid 1960s through the early 1990s is reviewed. Struggles with Israel, alliances with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and the growth of economic relationships with the East are highlighted. With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, “neutralism” was defunc t… Ginat’s book has a number of strengths. First, the depth and breath of Ginat’s research is note-worthy … Second, the methodology Ginat chose, ‘one with mutual feedback between political history and the history of ideas (p. xiv)’, enriches his work and makes it compelling and accessible to a wide range of readers. Likewise Ginat’s grasp of the international arena and its manifold partitions and historical context is admirable … Third, Ginat’s articulation of Syria’s perspective is particularly valuable. Ginat captures the Syrian viewpoint of internal, regional,and international happenings. As such, he enunciates a rarely heard outlook, particularly outside of Syria. It should be noted that the Introduction provides an essential foundation in the theoretical bases of neutralism / non-alignment.
Digest of Middle East Studies

Ginat’s contribution fills a void in the extant literature and should be of interest to anyone concerned with the evolution of Arab politics in general, and early post-mandatory Syria in particular … The work by the early intellectuals within the Ba’th Party and their impact on foreign policy prior to the ascendancy of the neo-Ba’th in 1963 is key to understanding the development of Syrian policy behaviour, yet has remained largely uncovered. Ginat’s contribution is a solid effort to redress this state of affairs … Ginat deserves particular praise for consulting a wide range of primary sources, including previously inaccessible Eastern European archival material.
Middle East Journal

While the end of the Cold War has offered new opportunities for assessing this four-decade long conflict, in regard to the Middle East, it can be said that, so far, no great, shattering revelations have been made available, in contrast to what we have learnt, for example, on the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1962, or the origins of the Korean War in 1950 … Against this background, the monograph by Dr. Rami Ginat of Bar-Ilan University is of particular interest … There is much of interest in this carefully researched and written book. First, Ginat’s study makes rich use of the archives of secondary powers, notably, Poland and India: perhaps the most original chapter is that on India’s relationship, in the context of the founding of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference at Bandung in 1955, with the Middle East, and Nehru’s sceptical views of Nasser and his ambitions. Secondly, it strengthens the general cases for state autonomy, and for the role of ideology, in the international relations of the Middle East. Moreover, this book contributes to the broader, comparative, study of the gamut of policies known as neutralism, non-alignment, third worldism and the rest, which were so prominent in this period.
The International History Review

Rami Ginat’s accessible and instructive study addresses the emergence of modern Syria from French Colonial rule… Through taking an internationalist perspective of post-independence Syria until the rise of Hafez al-Asad, Rami Ginat sheds much light on the development of Syrian foreign policy until the 1960s and the determination of third world Arab and Asian states to pursue a neutral course between the Cold War superpowers vying for influence in what became the non-aligned world. Ginat’s wide-ranging book provides an illuminating evaluation of the formation of the doctrine of ‘neutralism’ and ‘Arab neutralism’ from the perspective of the emerging non-aligned movement and the newly independent Arab states … The real value of this book is in the international and comparative perspective the author brings to the subject through the use of such diverse rich sources. The analysis illustrates the various Syrian, Arab, Third World and Cold War dynamics that both curtailed and shaped Syrian politics between the Second World War and the early 1960s. As such it provides an excellent ideological framework for scholars and postgraduates wishing to broaden their understanding of the Arab state system in the early Cold War period and the stabilization of a Syrian foreign policy that was largely masked by the instability of its frequently changing governments during this period.
Middle Eastern Studies

Ginat’s well-documented study is the first to provide a first-rate analysis of the ideological and the political development of the doctrine of Arab neutralism in Syria, and to a lesser extent in Egypt, from World War II until the 1960s. Ginat disputes the common belief that Nasser was the first Arab leader to exercise neutralism, and examines the effects that Arab neutralism had on shaping Syria’s foreign policy and its national identity. Using Arab, Indian, Soviet, Polish and Western primary sources, he places special emphasis on the interaction between Arab neutralism in Syria and Egypt, and other modes of neutralism in Third World countries such as India and Yugoslavia.
Moshe Ma’oz, The Truman Institute, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ginat provides a meticulously researched study of the intellectual and political development of Arab neutralism and the differences between Nehru’s ‘ideological/doctrinaire neutralism’ and Nasser’s ‘positive neutralism’ which informed Syrian policy in the 1950s. This excellent and scholarly work combines a history of ideas with a detailed and fascinating study of the development of Syria’s domestic and foreign policy in the search for a viable socio-economic system and an independent voice in international affairs.” Professor Margot Light, Department of International Relations, London School of Economics

“The contents of this work are more diverse than its title indicates … The result is a work of originality and value. Its detailed discussion of the initial Arab opening to the USSR during World War II, when both Egypt and Syria established formal diplomatic relations with the USSR, as well as its analysis of neutralist tendencies in both Syria and Egypt in the late 1940s and early 1950s, adds historical depth to the understanding of a phenomenon generally viewed as commencing only in the mid-1950s. The substance and contribution of various political tendencies within Syria, the Ba’th Party in particular, to the country's increasingly neutralist trajectory is closely analyzed, as is the distinction made by most Syrian ideologues between the nonalignment in international alliances that they were advocating and their rejection of Soviet-style communism as a socioeconomic system. The study gives great emphasis to identifying the different shades or nuances of neutralism espoused in the Arab world at different points in time: for example, initially a ‘calculative-pragmatic nationalist neutralism’ aimed at using Great Power rivalries to achieve local nationalist goals, somewhat later the ‘anti-Western neutralism’ fueled particularly by Arab resentment over Western policy in regard to Palestine, and later the ‘positive neutralism’ of the UAR that attempted to use the Cold War to Arab advantage. The sections on India's seminal role in the emergence of post World War II neutralism and in the Afro-Asian nonaligned movement, based as they are on a rich assemblage of Indian primary materials, are extremely valuable in their situating Arab neutralist tendencies in the wider global context in which they emerged and by which they were influenced. These and other strengths make the work an important contribution and a worthwhile read for all those interested in post World War II Arab politics.” International Journal of Middle East Studies

“Rami Ginat's monograph traces the development of Syria's foreign policy of neutralism
during its early years of independence in until the fall of the Soviet Union. By situating the evolution of Syrian politics within a global framework that incorporates the diplomatic positions of emerging nations of the so-called Third World – particularly India, Egypt, Yugoslavia, and Indonesia – Ginat demonstrates the multifaceted face of neutralism that simultaneously united and divided nations seeking an alternative "third path" within the ideological struggle of the Cold War …

While previous interpretations of Arab neutralism stress the inter-Arab national politics that determined how leaders positioned their states within the polarizing context of the Cold War, Ginat shows how inter-bloc politics involving other nonaligned, non-Arab states such as India, Yugoslavia, and China played an equally important role in conditioning a nation's particular brand of neutralism at a given time. Neutralism evolved in Syria as a reflection of what Ginat calls the "utilitarian considerations" of the nation, especially following the end of World War II when Syrian leaders searched for legitimacy in the international scene and cultivated short-term national partnerships with other emerging nations. In a larger sense, Ginat shows how neutralism developed among non-aligned nations as a reflection of the "local conditions, political heritage and tradition, and special needs," of each county (p. xiv). With an eye for the dynamic between ideas and policy, Ginat questions the degree to which neutralist positions were the demonstration of an engrained ideology, or simply the ad hoc result of realpolitik. Based on the narrative he presents, the reader is left to conclude that Syrian foreign policy initially reflected the former, while slipping ever closer to the latter over time …

Ginat's goal of situating Syrian political history in a wider context of dialogue among non-aligned nations is a welcome development in the literature ... the general political narrative between 1945 and 1962 is meticulously researched and his claims concerning the early emergence of neutralist tendencies are supported by overwhelming evidence (diplomatic communiques, speeches, and public records) drawn from archives in Britain, the US, Israel, Poland, and India… Rami Ginat's work is a considerable addition to the literature on the period and a worthwhile read for any student of Syrian history and Cold War politics in the Middle East.” Adam Guerin, Insight Turkey, Vol. 13 / No. 3 / 2011

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.