Who Is Bashar Al-Assad?

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America is remarkably humorless about Bashar al-Assad. It believes the Syrian President and Islamic State (IS) militants are two sides of the same coin that need to be rid of together to “liberate” Syria. Russia, though an Assad ally, is right to caution against a military solution that could accelerate the region’s downward spiral. Alas, old habits die hard and Washington greatly mistrusts Moscow’s intentions. For example, consider Washington’s response to Russia’s draft on combating IS put before the UN Security Council (UNSC) in September. This draft stressed that the world could not defeat IS without “coordination with governments of the affected states." Washington fired back that Russia’s proposal was at "significant variance with…show more content…
Bashar, unlike Dad Hafez, was always enamored with the western lifestyle. He is an England-trained eye doctor who wants Syria to become another Switzerland. Also, in his youth, Bashar was apolitical and desired a gentleman-farmer’s life somewhere in the English shires. His older brother Bassel was the heir apparent to Syria’s Baathist regime, but his death in 1994 changed everything. Then, Syrians expected Bassel’s charismatic younger brother Maher to replace him, but President Hafez al-Assad, for reasons unknown, decided the middle boy nicknamed “Beshoo” (baby Bashar) would succeed him to the Damascus throne. After getting elected unopposed in the year 2000, Bashar went on to antagonize his father’s socialist cronies and the Republican Guard by espousing neo-liberalism and capitalist ideas. That would have been a good time for Washington to mend fences with Syria. After all, a new and reluctant ruler of the minority Alawite regime in Sunni Syria could be pliable, yet no attempts at conciliation occurred. America had long patronized the Al-Khalifa Sunni royals in Shia-majority Bahrain, but it refused to reach out to Bashar, believing perhaps that he was his father’s son. Unsurprisingly, the latter soon steeled his rhetoric to match Washington’s rigid…show more content…
Starting from 2011, Assad has survived a countrywide revolt, IS and a slew of allied airstrikes. The answer is twofold. First, Assad is still immensely popular despite the civil war. In Syria’s first multiparty presidential election after 34 years in June 2014, Assad cakewalked to victory with 88% of the vote in a 73% electoral turnout. Elections observers from 30 countries declared the vote free and transparent. Second, if not Assad then who? Can a power vacuum in Syria be risked with IS, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra in the periphery? Joshua Landis, a Syria expert, says all these options “are terrifying, that's why nobody really wants Assad to leave." This is what Russia keeps trying to impress upon the West and where US policy in the region comes unstuck. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the 2014 Syrian vote “meaningless,” but did not elaborate why Afghan elections under American patronage keep getting fouled for mass

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