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While the State is officially secular, due to the high Sunni population (and disproportionate number of Sunni government employment), many Shia followers in Southern Iraq have petitioned for independence, as have the Kurds of the North. Several times these groups have both rose up, and each time been brutally crushed.
Prior to the Great Nuclear War, Syria and Iraq had vastly different paths. Between 1958 and 1961, Syria had been part of a Federation with Egypt, known as the United Arab Republic. However, instead of a federation of two Arab people, as many Syrians had seen it, the UAR had instead turned into a state completely dominated by Egyptians, and 1961 the Syrian military overthrew the government, which caused the collapse of the UAR, and the re-establishment of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Meanwhile, Iraq had been under a military Junta since 1958. The state, however, experienced greater and greater support for Ba'athism, and also wide-spread want to join the UAR.
Great Nuclear War
On the 28th October, 1962, the world was engulfed in nuclear war. Alongside many other Middle Eastern nations, the Syrian and Iraqi Oil Markets collapsed with the loss of supply. With the chaos, the Syrian Military again organised a coup, bringing the Ba'athist Amin al-Hafiz into power. Military rule was brutal, and complete control over the nation was established within weeks. However, in Iraq, the situation was not as stable. Whilst the central government, lead by Abdul Rahman Arif, managed to hold control of the South of the nation, the Ba'athist party seized control of much of the North-East, whilst the Kurds rose up in the North-West.
However, by 1968, the Ba'athist faction began to become the most influential, highly supplied by Syria. In 1967 they had annexed the Kurdish region, and a large offensive into Southern Iraq. During this time Syrian-Iraqi cooperation began to massively increase, and by 1970 the entirety of Iraq was under Ba'athist control. Despite this victory, however, a few weeks later, a rising member of the Ba'ath Party, Saddam Hussein, was assassinated, believed to be by Kurdish nationalists.
Whilst many suggestions had been made for years, serious proposals for Syrian-Iraqi unification did not come until 1971, when Bashar al-Assad became President of Syria. Negotiations began in 1972. Early on Syria made insistence for any capital to be based in Syria, after its previous experience with Egypt, and negotiations settled on naming Aleppo, the largest Syrian city, as the federal capital, whilst Damascus and Baghdad remaining the provincial capitals of Syria and Iraq respectively. Negotiations continued until 1975, when the state was declared.