Syria: A Tuneful Takeover

When Radio Damascus plays martial music, interspersed with ringing slogans, Syrian businessmen begin to wince. It usually means a coup d'état or a government crackdown.

The martial music began one night at 11:30 and the first slogan was: "1965 shall witness fundamental developments in strengthening the foundations of the regime!" That seemed to rule out a coup. At 1:30 a.m. the radio came clean: the announcer read off four new decrees that will take Syria's wobbly Baath (Renaissance) socialist government far down the Marxist road and virtually wipe out private ownership of Syria's major industries.

Strongman Amin Hafez's first two...

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