France controlled Syria and Lebanon through direct military occupation and through a direct French colonial administration.
France's method of governing its mandates territories was to encourage regional and ethnic divisions within Syria.
In 1949, Syria fell to a military coup and the Syrian coup ended in several factions fighting among themselves for power. The French had succeeded in creating a fractionalized nation with more regional identities than a national one!
A number of Syrian leaders asked assisstance from Gamal Nasser and they formed the United Arab Republic (UAR) under the Egyptian leadership in 1958.
Hafiz al-Assad rose to power in Syria as an army officer backing a coup by the Ba'th party against the military regime in 1963. By 1966, he had consolidated his position as the nation's dictatorial president.
Though a dictator, Assad expanded the public education system and he granted equal rights to women. He also moved Syria's economy in a more industrial mode with oil replacing cotton as its primary export.
But is Syria ready for democracy? Bashar is much different from his father and he seems to be ready to move his country towards more freedom.