His major preoccupation was to conclude a treaty with France, which had exercised control over Syria for more than two decades. This was accomplished with British help, and by 1946 all foreign troops had evacuated. In 1947, Quwatli enacted an amendment that removed a one-term limit from the constitution and was reelected in 1948.
Using the pretenses of the Israeli
victory over Arab forces in 1948 and popular dissatisfaction, Quwatli was overthrown in a CIA backed military coup in March 1949
. The CIA's purpose was to install someone who would allow the construction of the Quwatli opposed Saudi Arabian oil pipeline to be built, open a dialogue with Israel and rid the country of the Communist Party which Quawtli had tolerated. The CIA's candidate, Husni al-Za'im
, who had been released from prison eight years earlier, having served time for corruption, rapidly implemented his US controller's program. Quwatli, after a short imprisonment, went into exile in Egypt, waiting for an opportunity to regain his position, while a series of coups paralyzed Syrian political life. Free elections under the auspices of the venerable Hashim al-Atassi finally took place in 1955, and Quwatli, at the head of the National Party (the successor to the National Bloc), was elected president.
By then, his post was largely ceremonial, however, and he had little influence on Syria's domestic politics thereafter. Towards the close of the decade, pan-Arab nationalism had swept Syria, and Quwatli presided over the union with Egypt, which formed the United Arab Republic
, headed by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser
. By 1959, he had quarreled with Nasser and was forced into exile once again. This marked the end of his political career.
When he died in 1967 in Beirut
, after the Syrian authorities initially almost refused to allow his body burial at home, he was interred in Damascus in a lavish state funeral, which adequately reflected the ambitious posturing that marked the course of his life.