Established in 1946, the Syrian Arab Republic is at the heart of the Middle East. The ancient region encompassing this young country was once the heart of the civilized world.Dotting Syria's landscape are ancient ruins dating back to the major periods of Middle Eastern history. These relics bear witness to Syria's troubled past under the rule of competing empires and colonial powers. Over the centuries, the Syrians lived under the Greeks, the Ottoman Turks, and the French, from whom they eventually gained independence following the Second World War.As a modern nation, Syria has consistently pushed for a unified Arab front against its longtime rival, Israel, which since 1967 has occupied the Golan Heights, located in the southwestern corner of Syria. Decades of failed alliances and costly wars have taken their toll on Syria, and a lasting peace remains a must for its leaders.