Syrian Desert, desert of the northern Arabian Peninsula, including northern Saudi Arabia, northeastern Jordan, southeastern Syria, and western Iraq. In area the desert covers about 518,000 sq km (about 200,000 sq mi). The surface consists mainly of gravel, pebbles, and rocks; desert like this, from which most of the finer particles of sediment have blown away, is known as desert pavement. Wadis (dry watercourses that fill only after heavy and infrequent rainfall), mesas and buttes, and areas of sand occasionally break the monotony of the desert pavement.
The south central part of the desert is called Al Ḩamād, a name sometimes applied to all of the Syrian Desert. In the north it is bounded by the region known as the Fertile Crescent. Oases, including Palmyra and Damascus in Syria, are found primarily in the northern part of the desert. The desert is not arable, having only about 130 mm (about 5.1 in) of rainfall annually, but cattle and camels are raised by Bedouin nomads. Pipelines cross the desert to carry petroleum and natural gas from the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and Iraq to Mediterranean ports. A highway across the desert links the city of Baghdād in Iraq with Damascus in Syria.
During the U.S.-Iraq War, which began in 2003, Al Anbar, a province in northwestern Iraq, became a stronghold of Sunni insurgents fighting U.S. forces. Supplies for the insurgents were brought to Iraq through the desert from Syria.
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