Hafez Al Assad

Former President of Syria. Born into a family of Alawite muslims, a minority sect within Shia Islam that holds an inordinate sway on Syrian politics. Joined the Air Force and was an early member of the Ba'ath party both of which held him in good stead following a coup d'etat in Syria in 1966 in which he became Minister of Defense. He held this position during the disastrous Six Day War against Israel in 1967 and the events around Black September when the PLO tried (with Syrian backing) to overthrow King Hussein of Jordan The fallout from this humiliation allowed Assad to assume total power as Prime Minister, a positioned he strengthened the next year when he was elected President.

Assad cemented his position over the next thirty years and became one of the most influencial forces in the Middle East. Took another shot at Israel in 1973, slightly more successful than 1967 but still not good enough to regain the lost territory of the Golan Heights. He also sent a large contingent of the Syrian army to intervene in The Lebanon during the turmoil of that country's civil war. The Syrain army to this day remains in country and Assad established himself as the deciding factor in that country's domestic politics.

He chose to go against the majority of his fellow Arabs in siding with Iran in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), and he continued this antipathy to Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991 - being richly rewarded by the US for doing so. Mellowed somewhat in his later years, which he dedicated to getting back every inch of the Golan Heights, though he never made headway on a peace agreement with Israel.

Length of Rule - Thirty years

Related Links


The Mind of Hafez Al Assad

BBC Obituary



Patrick Seale

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