The Death of Colonel ʿAdnān al-Mālkī in 1955 and the Intra-Sunni Balance of Power in Syria

Joel Parker has published an article in "The Journal of the Middle East and Africa".

"This article reconsiders the simple minority-majority dichotomy that surrounded the death of Colonel ʿAdnān al-Mālkī who was a Sunni killed by an ʿAlawi in 1955. Nevertheless, it was not the ʿAlawi minority, or other non-Sunni minorities that drove the subsequent power struggle that arose in Syria. Rather what occurred was a battle for control of the identity, direction, and economic organization of the young state contested by two alternative networks of Sunni elites, namely ʿulemaʾ (religious-scholarly) families, and ʿaskerī (military-administrative) families, both of whose social origins can be found in Ottoman history. This study argues that al-Mālkī’s assassination temporarily weakened the Syrian ʿulemaʾ families’ position in the civil-military balance that undergirded Syrian society and allowed the ʿaskerī class to gain the initiative. Such a change is evidenced by Damascus’s turn toward the Soviet Union for arms as well as other state-building materials. The inability of these two competing internal networks to resolve their differences throughout the Cold War resulted in political dysfunction throughout the Cold War era. The ascent of Gamal ʿAbd al-Nasser to power with the creation of the United Arab Republic in 1958 proved a temporary abeyance in this struggle, but a final resolution came only much later when Hafez al-Assad became leader in 1970".