When Basher al-Asad became President of Syria in June 2000, he had a tough act to follow. A quiet, unassuming opthalmologist, trained in Britain, young Asad was successor to his dynamic, wily father Hafiz, who had consolidated power in his ethnically diverse and politically restive state through personal charisma, brute force and political balancing acts. Now, some years after Basher's succession and with mounting international pressure for political and economical reform, his handling of the issues facing Syria raises serious questions for the future stability of the Middle East. This is the first major work on Basher al-Asad. It assesses the durability of Hafiz's legacy, including the influence of the old power-brokers, the effectiveness of Basher's attempts to move away from his father's shadow, and prospects for reform. Above all, it evaluates Basher's continuing hold on power following Syria's humiliating retreat from Lebanon in Spring 2005.
Eyal Zisser is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Middle East and African Studies and Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of Lebanon: The Challenge of Independence (I.B.Tauris, 2000).