Once at the center of one of the world's most ancient civilizations, Syria has seen its share of turmoil. Occupied by many empires throughout its history, Syria became part of the vast Ottoman Empire in 1516. Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was put under French mandate by the League of Nations. It became independent in 1946, but continued to experience political instability until Hafez Assad gained power in a bloodless military coup on November 13, 1970. Since then, Syria has played a part in the Arab conflict in Israel and continued involvement in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs. Assad led the country for 30 years until his death in 2000. His son, Bashar, then became president and is credited with leading the country into the 21st century. However, Syria's alliances with violent Islamic military groups and Iran and its pursuit of advanced nuclear weapon capabilities have resulted in the United States placing sanctions on the country. In Syria, learn the storied history of this country that continues to be a major player in the Middle East and its politics.