Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad

Overview
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.

Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 on 11 September 1965, the son of Aniseh (née Makhluf) and Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

.
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Encyclopedia
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.

Early Life


Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 on 11 September 1965, the son of Aniseh (née Makhluf) and Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

. The home he grew up in was filled with politics and was conducted in the shadow of his father Hafez Assad who had taken over the presidency of Syria in the 1970 Corrective Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

. Unlike his brothers, Basil
Basil al-Assad
Bassel al-Assad was a son of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad .- Biography :...

 and Maher
Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, which together with Syria's secret police form the core of the country's security forces...

, and sister, Bushra
Bushra al-Assad
Bushra al-Assad is the first child and only daughter of Hafez al-Assad, who was the president of Syria from 1971 to 2000. She is the sister of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad...

, Bashar was quiet and reserved and lacked interest in politics or the military. He later stated that he only entered his father's office once while he was in power and he never spoke about politics with him.

He received his primary and secondary education in the Arab-French al-Hurriya School in Damascus and was an exemplary student that excelled academically. In 1982, he graduated from high school and went on to study medicine at Damascus University. In 1988, Bashar Assad graduated from medical school and began working as an army doctor in the biggest military hospital, "Tishrin", on the outskirts of Damascus. Four years later, he went to the United Kingdom to begin postgraduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital
Western Eye Hospital
Western Eye Hospital includes the only 24-hour emergency ophthalmology department in west London and treats a wide range of eye conditions from glaucoma to wet age-related macular degeneration , a major cause of blindness....

, part of the St Mary's group of teaching hospitals in London. Bashar at the time had few political aspirations. His father had been grooming Bashar's older brother, Basil al-Assad
Basil al-Assad
Bassel al-Assad was a son of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad .- Biography :...

, as the future president. Bashar, however, was recalled in 1994 to join the Syrian army, after Basil's unexpected death in an automobile accident.

Death of Basil



Soon after the death of Basil, Hafez Assad made the decision to make Bashar the new heir-apparent. Over the next six and half years, until his death in 2000, Hafez went about systematically preparing Bashar for taking over power. Preparations for a smooth transition were made on three levels. First, support was built up for Bashar in the military and security apparatus. Second, Bashar's image was established with the public. And lastly, Bashar was familiarized with the mechanisms of running the country.

To establish his credentials in the military, Bashar entered in 1994 the military academy at Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, north of Damascus, and was propelled through the ranks to become a colonel in January 1999. To establish a power base for Bashar in the military, old divisional commanders were pushed into retirement, and new, young, Alawite officers with loyalties to him took their place. Parallel to his military career, Bashar was engaged in public affairs. He was granted wide powers and became a political adviser to President Hafez al-Assad, head of the bureau to receive complaints and appeals of citizens, and led a campaign against corruption. As a result of his campaign against corruption, Bashar was able to remove his potential rivals for president.

In 1998, Bashar took charge of Syria's Lebanon file, which had since the 1970s been handled by former Vice President Abdul Khaddam
Abdul Halim Khaddam
Abdul Halim Khaddam is a Syrian politician who was Vice President of Syria from 1984 to 2005.-Early life and career:Abdul Halim Khaddam was born on 15 September 1932 in Baniyas, Syria. Abdul Halim was one of the few Sunni Muslims to make it to the top of the Alawite-dominated Syrian leadership...

, one of the few Sunni officials in the Assad government, who had until then been a potential contender for president. By taking charge of Syrian affairs in Lebanon, Bashar was able to push Khaddam aside and establish his own power base in Lebanon. In that same year after minor consultation with Lebanese politicians, Bashar installed Emile Lahoud
Émile Lahoud
General Émile Jamil Lahoud is a former President of Lebanon. Lahoud is a Maronite-Catholic, as is required for the Lebanese presidency. Under Lebanon's unwritten constitutional agreement, the National Pact, the presidency is earmarked for Maronite_Catholic, the parliament speaker's post for a Shia...

, a loyal ally of his, as the President of Lebanon and pushed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri aside, by not placing his political weight behind his nomination as prime minister. To further weaken the old Syrian order in Lebanon, Bashar replaced the long serving de facto Syrian High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

 of Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan
Ghazi Kanaan
Ghazi Kanaan was Syria's Interior Minister from 2004 to 2005, and long-time head of Syria's security apparatus in Lebanon...

, with loyal ally Rustum Ghazali
Rustum Ghazali
Rustum Ghazali is a Syrian politician and military officer.Born in 1953.Ghazali was appointed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2002 to succeed Gen. Ghazi Kanaan as head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon...

. Under Bashar, Syrian corruption in Lebanon, which was already estimated at $2 billion per year in the 1990s, became more rampant and was publicly exposed with the collapse in 2003 of the Lebanese Al-Madina bank. Al-Madina was used to launder kickback money in the illegal gaming of the UN's Iraqi oil-for-food programme. Sources put the amount transferred and laundered through al-Madina at more than $1 billion, with a 25 percent commission going to Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies, among the recipients of this money were Bashar Assad's brother Maher, Emile Lahoud's son-in-law Elias Murr
Elias Murr
Elias Murr is the former Lebanese Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. He held the positions of Deputy Prime minister and Interior Minister in previous Cabinets....

, and Ghazali.

Presidency



When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar was appointed leader of the Baath-Party and the Army
Military of Syria
The Syrian Armed Forces are the military forces of Syria. They consist of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Air Defense Force.-Manpower:The President of Syria is the commander in chief of the Syrian armed forces, comprising some 646,500 troops upon mobilization. The military is a conscripted force;...

, and was elected president unopposed, what the regime claimed to be a massive popular support (97.2% of the votes), after the Majlis Al Sha'ab
People's Council of Syria
The People's Council -External links:* official government website...

 (Parliament) swiftly voted to lower the minimum age for candidates from 40 to 34 (Assad's age when he was elected). On 27 May 2007, Bashar was approved as president for another seven-year term, with the official result of 97.6% of the votes in a referendum without another candidate.

In his domestic policy, he has been criticized for a disregard for human rights, economic lapses, and corruption. In his foreign policy, Al-Assad is an outspoken critic of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. The Ba'ath Party remains in control of the parliament, and is constitutionally the "leading party" of the state. Until he became president, Bashar al-Assad was not greatly involved in politics; his only public role was head of the Syrian Computer Society, which introduced the Internet to Syria in 2001. Al-Assad was confirmed as president by an unopposed referendum
Syrian presidential election, 2000
Presidential elections were held in Syria on 10 July 2000, following the death of President Hafez al-Assad. The only candidate was his son, Bashar al-Assad, with voters asked to approve or reject his candicacy. A reported 99.7% of voters voted in favour, with a turnout of 94.6%.-Results:...

 in 2000. He was expected to take a more liberal approach than his father. In an interview he stated that he saw democracy in Syria as 'a tool to a better life' but then argued that it would take time for democracy to come about and that it could not be rushed. Politically and economically, Syrian life has changed only slightly since 2000. Immediately after he took office a reform movement made cautious advances during the Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

, which led al-Assad to shut down Mezzeh prison and release hundreds of political prisoners. However, security crackdowns commenced again within the year.

Economy



Economic liberalization
Economic liberalization
Economic liberalization is a very broad term that usually refers to fewer government regulations and restrictions in the economy in exchange for greater participation of private entities; the doctrine is associated with classical liberalism...

 in Syria has been limited, with industry still heavily state-controlled. However some changes have occurred including the introduction of private banking and the encouragement of foreign involvement, most notably in the oil sector. The need for a diversification of the economy has been pressed for by some as it has been predicted that Syria will change from exporting to having to import oil by 2015. The reliance upon oil is reflected by manufacturing exports representing only 3.1 percent of Syria’s GDP. These issues are especially relevant as Syria’s population is predicted to more than double to over 34 million by 2050. There have been mild economic sanctions (the Syria Accountability Act) applied by the United States which further complicate the situation. Of major importance are the negotiations for a free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 association agreement with the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

.

Human rights


A 2007 law required internet cafes to record all the comments users post on chat forums. Websites such as Wikipedia
Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

 Arabic, YouTube
YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

 and Facebook
Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 were blocked intermittently between 2008 and February 2011
Internet censorship in Syria
Internet censorship in Syria is extensive. Syria bans websites for political reasons and arrests people accessing them. Filtering and blocking was found to be pervasive in the political and Internet tools areas, and selective in the social and conflict/security areas by the OpenNet Initiative in...

.

Human Rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 and Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

, have detailed how Bashar's regime and secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 routinely torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

, imprison, and kill political opponents, and those who speak out against the regime.

Since 2006 it expanded the use of travel bans against dissidents, a practice that is illegal under international law. In that regard, Syria is the worst offender among Arab states.

In an interview with ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

 in 2007 he stated: "We don't have such [things as] political prisoners," yet the New York Times reported the arrest of 30 political prisoners in Syria in December 2007.

Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy is a bimonthly American magazine founded in 1970 by Samuel P. Huntington and Warren Demian Manshel.Originally, the magazine was a quarterly...

magazine analyzed his position in the wake of the 2011 protests:

Foreign relations


Assad's first official foreign trip was to meet Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

 in France, who had warm relations with him. The Middle Eastern Quarterly noted that "As in the case of Iraq, there are lingering questions of Syrian payments to French politicians. Many French politicians join associations and charitable boards both for financial and political gain. The board of the L'Association d'Amitié France-Syrie (France-Syria Friendship Association) boasts among its members former prime minister Raymond Barre, former secretary of state Claude Cheysson, and 2007 presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy".

The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the March 14 Alliance
March 14 Alliance
The March 14 alliance , named after the date of the Cedar Revolution, is a coalition of political parties and independents in Lebanon that call for sovereignty over all Lebanese territories, led by MP Saad Hariri, younger son of Rafik Hariri, the assassinated former prime minister of Lebanon, as...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 accuse Assad of logistically supporting militant groups aimed at Israel and any opposing member to his government. These include most political parties other than Hezbollah, Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

, and Islamic Jihad. According to MEMRI, Assad claimed the United States could benefit from the Syrian experience in fighting organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 at the Hama Massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

.

Assad opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 despite a long-standing animosity between the Syrian and Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i governments. Assad used Syria's seat in one of rotating positions on the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 to try to prevent the invasion of Iraq. Following the Iraq invasion by coalition forces, Assad was accused of supporting the Iraqi insurgency. A US general accused him of providing funding, logistics, and training to Iraqi and foreign Muslims to launch attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

The February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Rafik Hariri
Rafik Hariri
Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri , was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.He headed five cabinets during his tenure...

 and the accusation of Syrian involvement and support for anti-Israeli groups, helped precipitate a crisis in relations with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Assad was criticized for Syria's presence in Lebanon which ended in 2005, and the US put Syria under sanctions partly because of this. At Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005, Assad shook hands with the Israeli president Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

.

In the Arab world, Assad mended relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 but relations with many Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, have been deteriorating. This is in part due to Assad's continued intervention in Lebanon and his alliance with Iran. Around the time of the 2008 South Ossetia
South Ossetia
South Ossetia or Tskhinvali Region is a disputed region and partly recognized state in the South Caucasus, located in the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic....

 war, Assad made an official visit to Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. In an interview with the Russian TV channel Vesti, he asserted that one cannot separate the events in the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 from the US presence in Iraq, which he condemned as a direct threat to [Syria's] security."

After the 2005 assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 of Lebanese
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
Rafik Hariri
Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri , was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.He headed five cabinets during his tenure...

, many media outlets accused Syria of being involved. as Hariri was anti-Syrian. However, Assad argued that Syria's gradual withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, beginning in 2000, was precipitated as a result of the event and ended on may 2005.

In 2011, Assad told the Wall Street Journal that he considered himself "anti-Israel" and "anti-West", and that because of these policies he was not in danger of being overthrown.

Involvement in Lebanon


Despite gaining re-election in 2007, al-Assad’s position was considered by some to have been weakened by the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following the "Cedar Revolution
Cedar Revolution
The Cedar Revolution or Independence Intifada was a chain of demonstrations in Lebanon triggered by the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.The primary goals of the original activists were the...

" in 2005. There has also been pressure from the US concerning claims that Syria is linked to terrorist networks, exacerbated by Syrian condemnation of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah military leader, in Damascus in 2008. Interior Minister Bassam Abdul-Majeed stated that, "Syria, which condemns this cowardly terrorist act, expresses condolences to the martyr family and to the Lebanese people.”

Arab-Israeli conflict


In a speech about the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
The 2006 Lebanon War, also called the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War and known in Lebanon as the July War #Other uses|Tammūz]]) and in Israel as the Second Lebanon War , was a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon, northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. The principal parties were Hezbollah...

 in August 2006, Bashar al-Assad said that Hezbollah had "hoisted the banner of victory," hailing its actions as a "successful resistance." He claimed that Arab resistance was growing stronger, and warned Israel that "your warplanes, rockets, and your atomic bomb will not protect you in the future." He called Israel an enemy with whom no peace could be achieved as long as they and their allies (especially the U.S.) support the practice of preemptive war
Preemptive war
A preemptive war is a war that is commenced in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived inevitable offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending war before that threat materializes. It is a war which preemptively 'breaks the peace'. The term: 'preemptive war' is...

. In the same speech, he also called Arab leaders that have criticized Hezbollah "half-men."

In April 2008, Assad told a Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

i newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 as a go-between. This was confirmed in May 2008, by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

. As well as a peace treaty, the future of the Golan Heights is being discussed. Assad was quoted in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

as telling the Qatari paper:
. . . there would be no direct negotiations with Israel until a new US president takes office. The US was the only party qualified to sponsor any direct talks, [Assad] told the paper, but added that the Bush administration "does not have the vision or will for the peace process. It does not have anything."


According to leaked American cables
United States diplomatic cables leak
The United States diplomatic cables leak, widely known as Cablegate, began in February 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates,...

, Bashar al Assad called Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 an "uninvited guest" and said "If you want me to be effective and active, I have to have a relationship with all parties. Hamas is Muslim Brotherhood, but we have to deal with the reality of their presence.", comparing Hamas to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood which was crushed by his father Hafez al Assad. He then claimed Hamas would disappear if peace was brought to the Middle East.

Assad has indicated that the peace treaty that he envisions would not be the same kind of peace treaty Israel has with Egypt where there is a legal border crossing and open trade. In a 2006 interview with Charlie Rose
Charlie Rose
Charles Peete "Charlie" Rose, Jr. is an American television talk show host and journalist. Since 1991 he has hosted Charlie Rose, an interview show distributed nationally by PBS since 1993...

, Assad said “There is a big difference between talking about a peace treaty and peace. A peace treaty is like a permanent ceasefire. There’s no war, maybe you have an embassy, but you actually won’t have trade, you won’t have normal relations because people will not be sympathetic to this relation as long as they are sympathetic with the Palestinians: half a million who live in Syria and half a million in Lebanon and another few millions in other Arab countries.”

During the visit of Pope John Paul II to Syria in 2001, Bashar al-Assad requested an apology to Muslims for the medieval Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 and criticized Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Comparing their suffering to that believed to have been endured by Jesus Christ in Palestine, Assad claimed that the Jews "tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad." Responding to claims that his comment was antisemitic, Assad said that whereas Judaism is a racially heterogeneous religion, the Syrian people are the core of the Semitic race and therefore are opposed to the term antisemitism. When offered to retract his comment implying that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' suffering, Assad replied, "As always, these are historical facts that we cannot deny," and stressed that his remarks were not anti-Jewish. On the other hand, in February 2011 Bashar backed an initiative to restore 10 synagogues in Syria, which had a Jewish community numbering 30,000 in 1947 but has only 200 Jews today.

2011 uprising


Protests in Syria started on 26 January and were influenced by other protests in the region. Protesters have been calling for political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights, as well as an end to the state of emergency which has been in place since 1963. One attempt at a "day of rage" was set for 4–5 February, though it ended up uneventful. Protests on 18–19 March were the largest to take place in Syria for decades and Syrian authorities have responded with violence against its protesting citizens.

On 18 May 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 signed an Executive order putting into effect sanctions against Bashar Assad in an effort to pressure his regime "to end its use of violence against its people and begin transitioning to a democratic system that protects the rights of the Syrian people." The sanctions effectively freeze any of the Syrian President's assets either in the United States proper or within U.S. jurisdiction. On May 23, 2011 EU
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 Foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to add Mr Assad and nine other officials to a list affected by travel bans and asset freezes. On May 24, 2011 Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

  imposed sanctions on Syrian leaders, one of which is Assad.

On 20 June 2011, in a speech lasting nearly an hour, in response to the demands of protesters and foreign pressure, al-Assad promised a "national dialogue" involving movement toward reform, new parliamentary elections, and greater freedoms. He also urged refugees to return home from Turkey, while assuring them amnesty and blaming all unrest on a small number of "saboteurs".

In August 2011, Syrian security forces attacked the country's best-known political cartoonist, Ali Farzat
Ali Farzat
Ali Farzat , is a renowned Syrian political cartoonist. He has published more than 15,000 caricatures between Syrian, Arab and international newspapers. He serves as the head of the Arab Cartoonists' Association.-Career:...

, a noted critic of Syria's government and its five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and dissent. Relatives of the severely beaten humorist told Western media the attackers threatened to break Farzat's bones as a warning for him to stop drawing cartoons of government officials, particularly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ferzat, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, was hospitalized with fractures in both hands and blunt force trauma to the head.

Personal Life


Assad stands about 189 cm (6 ft 2 in). He speaks English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 fluently, and also casual conversational French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, having studied at the Franco-Arab al-Hurriyah school in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. In December 2000, Assad married Asma Assad, née Akhras, a British-citizen of Syrian origin, from Acton, London
Acton, London
Acton is a district of west London, England, located in the London Borough of Ealing. It is situated west of Charing Cross.At the time of the 2001 census, Acton, comprising the wards of East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 53,689 people...

. On 3 December 2001, they became the parents of their first-born child, named Hafez after his late grandfather. Zein was born on 5 November 2003, and Karim on 16 December 2004.

Further reading

  • Bashar Al-Assad (Major World Leaders) by Susan Muaddi Darraj, (June 2005, Chelsea House Publications) ISBN 0-7910-8262-8 for young adults
  • Syria Under Bashar Al-Asad: Modernisation and the Limits of Change by Volker Perthes, (2004, Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-856750-2 (Adelphi Papers
    Adelphi Papers
    The Adelphi Papers is a monograph series in which the policy-related original academic research of the International Institute for Strategic Studies is principally published. The series was established in 1961 and continues today....

    #366)
  • Bashar's First Year: From Ophthalmology to a National Vision (Research Memorandum) by Yossi Baidatz, (2001, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
    Washington Institute for Near East Policy
    The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is a think tank based in Washington, D.C. focused on United States foreign policy in the Middle East. It was established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 1985...

    ) ISBN B0006RVLNM
  • Syria: Revolution From Above by Raymond Hinnebusch (Routledge; 1st edition, August 2002) ISBN 0-415-28568-2
  • Bashar al-Assad and John F. Kennedy, Forward Magazine (Syria)
  • Assad: We too were not very happy with Annapolis, Forward Magazine (Syria)
  • Seven years of Bashar al-Assad’s rule 2000-2007, Forward Magazine (Syria) http://www.fw-magazine.com/content/seven-years-bashar-al-assad’s-rule-2000-2007

External links




Articles
  • Syria’s Proxy Forces in Iraq, Al-Hayat (London), 12 April 2003 at Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
  • Profile: Syria's Bashar al-Assad BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

    , 10 March 2005
  • Bashar al-Assad's Lebanon Gamble, William Harris, Middle East Quarterly
    Middle East Quarterly
    Middle East Quarterly is a peer reviewed quarterly journal, a publication of the American conservative think tank Middle East Forum founded by Daniel Pipes in 1994. It is devoted to subjects relating to the Middle East and Islam and analyzes the region "explicitly from the viewpoint of American...

    , Summer 2005
  • Assad on the Brink, David Hirst, The Nation
    The Nation
    The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

    , 21 November 2005
  • Syria's Leaders, Esther Pan, Council on Foreign Relations
    Council on Foreign Relations
    The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...

    , 10 March 2006
  • Connecting the dots in Lebanon, Omar Raad, Ya Libnan Volunteer, 2 December 2006
  • The Assad Dynasty in Syria: From Father to Son, Kristin Helberg, Deutsche Welle
    Deutsche Welle
    Deutsche Welle or DW, is Germany's international broadcaster. The service is aimed at the overseas market. It broadcasts news and information on shortwave, Internet and satellite radio on 98.7 DZFE in 30 languages . It has a satellite television service , that is available in four languages, and...

    , 2009 at qantara.de
    Qantara.de
    Qantara.de is an Internet portal in German, English, Arabic and Turkish, designed to promote intercultural dialogue between the Western and the Islamic world....

  • Interview With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, The Wall Street Journal
    The Wall Street Journal
    The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

    , 31 January 2011
  • Profile: Bashar al-Assad, Al Jazeera English, 25 March 2011

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