For more than 4,000 years, the land known as Syria was marched over, sacked, and occupied by soldiers of many empires of the world. In 1516, Syria became part of the vast Ottoman Empire of the Turks. After the Ottomans' defeat in World War I, Syria came under the authority of France. In 1946, Syria gained its independence, but began several decades of unstable government that ended with the election of Hafez Assad as president in 1970. His son Bashar Assad became his unlikely successor in 2000 and is credited with bringing his country into the 21st century. Today, Syria has been criticized for its influence in Lebanese affairs and for its suspected terrorist funding.