Of all the strange developments in the Middle East this is one of the strangest. Established on February 1, 1958, as a first step towards a larger pan-Arab state, the UAR was created when a group of political and military leaders in Syria proposed a merger of the two states to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Pan-Arab sentiment traditionally was very strong in Syria, and Nasser was a popular hero-figure throughout the Arab world following the Suez War of 1956. There was thus considerable popular support in Syria for union with Nasser's Egypt. So Egypt and Syria united to become, in effect, one country despite being geographically separate.

It did not last for long. Nasser took over Syria in order to stabilize it. Instead of federation of two Arab peoples, as many Syrians had imagined, the UAR turned into a state completely dominated by Egyptians. In the process, the strongly centralized Egyptian state imposed Nasser’s socialistic political and economical system on weaker Syria, creating backlash from the Syrian business and army circles, which resulted in the Syrian coup of September 28, 1961 and the end of the UAR.

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