Hafez al-Assad
President of Syria from 1970–2000
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad was a Syrian statesman, politician and general who served as Prime Minister of Syria between 1970 and 1971 and then President between 1971 and 2000. He also served as Secretary of the Syrian Regional Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party and Secretary General of the National Command of the Ba'ath Party from 1970 to 2000 and Minister of Defense from 1966 to 1972.
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Donald Trump, Your 'Rigged' Election Will Not Hijack My America
Huffington Post - 4 months
I've had enough. I've sat idle witnessing Donald Trump become the Republican nominee for president, despite his lack of qualifications and general decency as a human being. He did that, while violating everything this country stands for. Recently he added the straw that broke the camel's back. (Which hit close to home in my case.) "Elections are rigged," Trump has repeated. Mr. Trump, allow me to tell you about rigged elections. Growing up in Damascus, Syria, my dad never allowed us to go vote. "It's not safe," he would say. I used to watch the "elections" on television. Hafez Al-Assad had been president for years and won every time by an overwhelming majority. One year without him knowing, I went with a friend to satisfy that itch for lofty principles we experience as teenagers - ready to conquer the world. We entered the library and had to show our IDs and sign a sheet that said: I will vote for President Hafez Al-Assad. Going into the small booth, I passed two ...
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Huffington Post article
Moscow's Historical Relationship with Damascus: Why it Matters Now
Huffington Post - about 1 year
Current relations - Source: Sputnik News There have been many objections to what is denominated as the Russian interference in Syria, more specifically in the Syrian Armed Conflict. Most of the objections coming from these analysts concentrate on one sided-arguments and therefore ignore the historical relationship that Moscow has had with Damascus. Many of the reasons given for why Russia is in Syria could be part of the general spectrum of things - they are neither completely false nor completely true - yet they all sidestep history as an unfounded phenomenon. They paint an ingenious yet delusional picture of a foreign intruder coming out of nowhere to the aid of an internal despot, while ignoring the fact that the relations of cooperation between Syria and Russia were established literally as the former gained independence from the French and thereby became a modern nation-state. The objections raised by many analysts are therefore tantamount to objecting to the historical assista ...
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Huffington Post article
How U.S. Interventions Dismembered the Middle East
Huffington Post - about 1 year
Despite everything, hawks are still pushing President Obama to send ground troops to Syria. He would be wise to reject their advice. For the last few decades in the Middle East, the policy of western powers -- led by the United States -- has been to ensure the flow of oil; maintain stable and secure allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States, Egypt and Israel; and maintain military and economic influence when needed. Usually these ends were met through economic or military-to-military partnerships. After September 11, however -- with a big push from the neoconservatives -- U.S. policy toward the Middle East lurched toward overt military intervention, such as the one in Iraq in 2003. The goal was to spread U.S. influence and secure supposed U.S. interests by regime change. So U.S. policy planners looked for a weak and corrupt regime that enjoyed little support from its people (in this case, Saddam Hussein's Iraq), and cooked up a justification for the military int ...
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Huffington Post article
Syria's Two-Body Problem
Huffington Post - over 1 year
In medieval Europe, the king had two bodies. He sat on his throne in his own personal body, which suffered from the same sicknesses and infirmities that afflict all corporeal beings. But he also possessed a second body, the body politic, which represented the entire realm. The king served as "head of state," a phrase that harkens back to this peculiar political theology. After the death of his own physical body, the king's second body passed on to his successor, ideally his male offspring. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also has two bodies, and he's worried about the fate of both of them. The Syrian body politic is in the process of slow-motion dismemberment, for the head of state has lost quite a few of his extremities. Yet Assad is clinging to power in this shrunken entity, fearful of what might happen to his physical body -- and those of his family and colleagues -- if he should leave power, voluntarily or involuntarily. Images of the end days of Saddam Hussein (hanged) an ...
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Man arrested after murder of Assad critic in London
Yahoo News - almost 2 years
A man has been arrested in connection with the murder in London of an imam who was a critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, police said Monday. Abdul Hadi Arwani, 48, was found in his car with gunshot wounds to the chest in Wembley, northwest London, on Tuesday. Scotland Yard said a 36-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and remains in police custody. Arwani reportedly fled Syria as a teenager after surviving the 1982 Hama massacre, in which the current president's father Hafez al-Assad sent troops to brutally crush an Islamist-led uprising.
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Jesse Jackson offers to go after North Korea rescinds invite on Bae release
Chicago Times - about 3 years
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea has rescinded an invitation for a senior U.S. official to visit Pyongyang to seek the release of imprisoned U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae, a State Department official said on Sunday, adding civil rights activist Jesse Jackson had offered to go to Pyongyang to try to free Bae. "We are deeply disappointed by the DPRK (North Korean) decision - for a second time - to rescind its invitation for Ambassador (Robert) King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae's release. The DPRK announced publicly in May 2013 it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip," the official said. "At the request of the Bae family, Reverend Jackson offered to travel to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission focused on Bae's release. We support the efforts of the Bae family and Reverend Jackson to bring Bae home," the official said. The U.S. official referred to U.S.-South Korean (Republic of Korea) military exercises, which North Korea opposes. "We remin ...
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Chicago Times article
The Source of Assad's Staying Power
Huffington Post - over 3 years
When Basil Assad, oldest son and heir apparent to the late President Hafez Assad, was killed in a car accident in 1994, the father turned to his inexperienced son Bashar to groom him for the presidency. Whereas Basil was trained in military and political affairs and the workings of the state, Bashar was studying ophthalmology in England and showed little promise that he could embrace the operative skills in domestic and foreign affairs of his shrewd father. I was told by top Syrian officials, who are still in positions of power, that the elder Assad wanted to leave nothing to chance. He reduced his political philosophy to seven principles (which he drilled in his son's mind) to safeguard the security and stability of the state and ensure the continuity of the Assad dynasty. First, Syria must maintain and further strengthen ties with its allies, emphasizing in particular the importance of the financial support of Iran, Russia's military supplies, and the political backing of both ...
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40 Years Later: A Look Back at the Yom Kippur War
Huffington Post - over 3 years
It should not have come as a surprise to Israel. Not after Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat threatened war repeatedly, not after Egypt and Syria assembled massive military forces on the frontiers, not after Jordan's King Hussein flew secretly to Israel to warn Prime Minister Golda Meir that an attack was imminent. But it did. And when full-scale war erupted at 2 p.m. on October 6, 1973, Israel was rocked back on its heels. In the first three days, Egypt re-crossed the Suez Canal and retook portions of the western Sinai; Syria rolled across the Golan Heights and shelled Israel's northern settlements. Israel hurriedly mobilized, fought back, regained lost territory, pushed forward to occupy more Arab land and finally, reluctantly, accepted a ceasefire on October 25. When the shooting stopped, Israel's forces stood in place, 25 miles from Damascus, 63 miles from Cairo. The war came as a surprise because of skillful deception on the Arab side, but mainly because of hubris ...
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Syria: A Need for Action, With No Clear Goal
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice - over 3 years
When children die indiscriminately at the hands of a dictator, our natural instinct is to protect and prevent.— by Adam L. Beitman This week, as the government is carefully building up public support for intervention in Syria, a consideration of recent history and the current situation in the Middle East presses itself upon us. More than anywhere else in the region, the dynamic in Syria illustrates the complexity of America's conflicting foreign policy considerations, along with the impossibility of determining where our strategic interests (however conceived) reside. When children die indiscriminately at the hands of a dictator, our natural instinct is to protect and prevent. Our impulse to stop these abuses, however we can, is the right one. Yet, beyond that impulse, current U.S. foreign policy toward Syria has no clear goal. More after the jump. In 2011, the United States intervened in Libya, using airstrikes to help rebels overthrow that country's long time dictator, Muammar ...
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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice article
Syria's New Friend in Cairo
Huffington Post - over 3 years
As the tumultuous waters continue to swirl in the Middle East, President Mohammed Morsi's fall, the Egyptian military's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Sinai insurgency have added new dynamics to Cairo's foreign policy. Egypt's emboldened interim-government has embarked on a dramatic new path, which includes a restoration of Egyptian-Syrian relations. The growing Egyptian-Syrian partnership has potential to significantly alter the Middle East's balance of power when the conflicts in both countries finally resolve. The latter half of the Cold War's impact on the Arab world, coupled with several important developments that impacted the region's balance, pitted the strategic interests of Damascus and Cairo against each other. Such transformations included the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, the fall of Iran's Shah in 1979, the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Hezbollah's 2006 standoff with Israel, the rise of Hamas in Gaza and Western-imposed sanctions o ...
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Huffington Post article
U.S. Allies Give a Frosty Reception to Syrian Chemical Weapons Deal
Foreign Policy - over 3 years
BEIRUT, Lebanon — At the end of the press conference unveiling their deal over Syria's chemical weapons program, a smiling Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to exchange a joke before walking offstage. Some of America's allies in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad, however, weren't laughing. Even as a Syrian official hailed the Sept. 14 plan as a "victory" for the Assad regime, the reaction from U.S. partners in the Middle East ranged from skepticism to outright hostility. Turkey, which has been at the forefront of the anti-Assad cause, said it welcomed the initiative -- but expressed doubts that the Syrian regime would comply with its terms. Officials in Ankara warned that the deal does nothing to resolve the Syrian crisis and said that more must be done to pressure Assad to relinquish power. "The Syrian crisis is not only about use of chemical weapons -- up until now, more than 100,000 people have died, not because o ...
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Foreign Policy article
Video: 60 Minutes Overtime, 09.15.13
CBS News - over 3 years
After years of delivering classified CIA briefings to presidents, Mike Morell retired. Two days after Mike Morell retired from the CIA, he briefed the rest of us in a 60 Minutes interview about Syria; then, What's next for medical marijuana? Hint: it doesn't involve a match, pipe or rolling papers; also, When Bashar al-Assad inherited the presidency, Syrians hoped he would reform the country but it did not take long before they saw the young eye doctor turn into a ruthless dictator; and, Hafez al-Assad committed some of the worst atrocities in the Middle East but keeping a low profile helped him escape international scrutiny.
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CBS News article
Why journalists are like cops and firefighters
Reuters Canada - over 3 years
When some of our friends in academia read the top news about Syria on a website or in a newspaper, they do so through a lens ground by UCLA political scientist John Zaller. In a 2003 paper (pdf), Zaller analyzed two modes of news production that journalists often employ. While working in patrol mode, the press surveys the landscape for trouble and writes up what it finds, like a cop walking a beat and writing the occasional ticket or making the routine arrest. In alarm mode, aroused reporters respond to calls for help by lighting up the gumball, tossing it on the roof, and peeling out for the crime scene, the building afire, or the battleground. I simplify Zaller here, just as he modified the patrol/alarm idea of two other political scientists on his way to his insight. But the simplification stands: The journalistic transmission knows two basic gears: slow or fast; monitoring from afar or fully entrenched; casual or obsessed. The press has long treated Syria as just another stop on ...
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Reuters Canada article
War Again
Huffington Post - over 3 years
I have been preparing to write my blog for the Peacemaker Corps regaling the beauty and elegance of Martin Luther King Jr's march for Jobs and Freedom celebration on August 28, 1963, and the repeat of the event 50 years later just 10 days ago. I wanted to say how proud we as a nation should be of that moment in history when many diverse groups became a community, which made up a powerful coalition that together marched and prayed for peaceful changes of all the in justices that our government and part of the population were perpetrating on our own, very much like what we now see in other countries all over the world -- Syria is a good example. I was a strong and loyal supporter of Dr King and would have been at the mall to celebrate the beginning of positive change in our country, but as a new mom, I stayed home at watched and cheered from my kitchen through the TV while feeding and looking after my son Robert, just recently born. Unfortunately he did not live long enough for us ...
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Huffington Post article
How Assad Wooed the American Right, and Won the Syria Propaganda War
Foreign Policy - over 3 years
Even before President Barack Obama put his plans to strike the Syrian regime on hold, he was losing the battle of public opinion about military intervention. Part of the credit, no doubt, goes to a successful media blitz by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its supporters. In an interview aired on Monday night, Assad himself advanced his government's case to Charlie Rose, saying that the United States had not presented "a single shred of evidence" proving the Syrian military had used chemical weapons. Assad has always been able to skillfully parry Western journalists' criticisms of his regime -- and, at times, it has won him positive international coverage. Before the uprising, the U.S. media often described the Assad family as Westernized leaders who were trying to bring their country into the 21st century. The most infamous example was Vogue's profile of Asma al-Assad, which described Syria's first lady as "a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind ... ...
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Foreign Policy article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Hafez al-Assad
  • 2000
    Age 69
    On 10 June 2000, at the age of 69, Hafez al-Assad died of a heart attack while on the telephone with Lebanese prime minister Hoss. 40 days of mourning was declared in Syria and 7 days in Lebanon thereafter.
    More Details Hide Details His funeral was held three days later. Assad is buried with his son, Bassel al-Assad, in a mausoleum in his hometown of Qardaha. Assad called his domestic reforms a corrective movement, and it achieved some results. He tried to modernize Syria's agricultural and industrial sectors; one of his main achievements was the completion of the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River in 1974. One of the world's largest dams, its reservoir was called Lake Assad. The reservoir increased irrigation of arable land, provided electricity, and encouraged industrial and technical development in Syria. Many peasants and workers received increased income, social security, and better health and educational services. The urban middle class, which had been hurt by the Jadid government's policy, had new economic opportunities. By 1977 it was apparent that despite some success, Assad's political reforms had largely failed. This was partly due to Assad's foreign policy, failed policies, natural phenomena and corruption. Chronic socioeconomic difficulties remained, and new ones appeared. Inefficiency, mismanagement, and corruption in the government, public, and private sectors, illiteracy, poor education (particularly in rural areas), increasing emigration by professionals, inflation, a growing trade deficit, a high cost of living and shortages of consumer goods were among problems faced by the country. The financial burden of Syria's involvement in Lebanon since 1976 contributed to worsening economic problems, encouraging corruption and a black market.
  • 1999
    Age 68
    Assad continued to conduct meetings, traveling abroad occasionally; he visited Moscow in July 1999.
    More Details Hide Details Because of his increasing seclusion from state affairs, the government became accustomed to working without his involvement in day-to-day affairs.
    His spokesperson ignored the speculation, and Assad's official routine in 1999 was basically unchanged from the previous decade.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1998
    Age 67
    By December 1998 Bashar al-Assad had replaced Rafiq al-Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon and one of Khaddam's proteges, with Selim Hoss.
    More Details Hide Details Several Assad proteges, who had served since 1970 or earlier, were dismissed from office between 1998 and 2000. They were sacked not because of disloyalty to Assad, but because Assad thought they would not fully support Bashar al-Assad's succession. "Retirees" included Muhammad al-Khuli, Nassir Khayr Bek and Ali Duba. Among the new appointees (Bashar loyalists) were Bahjat Sulayman, Major General Halan Khalil and Major General Asaf Shawkat (Assad's son-in-law). By the late 1990s, Assad's health had deteriorated. American diplomats said Assad had difficulty staying focused and seemed tired during their meetings; he was seen as incapable of functioning for more than two hours a day.
    By 1998 Bashar al-Assad had made inroads into the Ba'ath Party, taking over Khaddam's Lebanon portfolio (a post he had held since the 1970s).
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1997
    Age 66
    Bashar al-Assad was promoted to lieutenant general in July 1997, and to colonel in January 1999.
    More Details Hide Details Official sources ascribe Bashar's rapid promotion to his "overall excellence in the staff officers' course, and in the outstanding final project he submitted as part of the course for command and staff". With Bashar's training, Assad appointed a new generation of Alawite security officers to secure his succession plans. Shihabi's replacement by Aslan as Chief of Staff on 1 July 1998—Shihabi was considered a potential successor by the outside world—marked the end of the long security-apparatus overhaul. Skepticism of Assad's dynastic-succession plan was widespread within and outside the government, with critics noting that Syria was not a monarchy.
  • 1994
    Age 63
    On 21 January 1994, Bassel al-Assad died in a car accident.
    More Details Hide Details In his eulogy, Assad called his son's death a "national loss". Bassel al-Assad, in death, played as great a role in his country's life as he did alive: his picture appeared on walls, cars, stores, dishes, clothing and watches. The Syrian Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party began indoctrinating youths with a Bassel al-Assad course. Almost immediately after Bassel's death, Assad began to groom his 29-year-old son Bashar al-Assad for succession. Abdul Halim Khaddam, Syria's foreign minister from 1970 to 1984, opposed dynastic succession on the grounds that it was not socialist. Khaddam has said that Assad never discussed his intentions about succession with members of the Regional Command. By the 1990s, the Sunni faction of the leadership was aging; the Alawites, with Assad's help, had received new blood. His love for the family was even stronger than his duty as president. The decision was very wrong. This decision was in total contradiction to all laws and regulations in Syria. He was quickly promoted to Brigadier Commander, and served for a time in the Republican Guard. He studied most military subjects, "including tank battalion commander, command and staff" (the latter two of which were required for a senior command in the Syrian army).
    However, things did not go according to plan, and in 1994 Bassel al-Assad died in a car accident.
    More Details Hide Details His third choice was his younger son Bashar al-Assad, who at that time had no practical political experience. This move was met with open criticism within some quarters of the Syrian ruling class, but Assad reacted by demoting several officials who opposed his succession plan.
  • 1991
    Age 60
    Bassel al-Assad continued his climb to the top; at the time of the 1991 presidential referendum, citizens were ordered to sing songs praising him.
    More Details Hide Details Vehicles belonging to the military and the secret police began bearing images of Bassel, and Assad began to be called the "Father of Bassel" in official media. Bassel al-Assad went on his first foreign mission representing his country, traveling to Saudi Arabia to visit King Fahd. Shortly before his death, he represented his absent father at an official event.
  • 1986
    Age 55
    Bassel al-Assad became a security officer at the Presidential Palace in 1986, and a year later he was appointed Commander of the Defense Companies.
    More Details Hide Details About this time, rumors spread that Assad planned to make Bassel his successor.
  • 1985
    Age 54
    Until his 1985 ouster, Rifaat al-Assad was considered the face of corruption by the Syrian people.
    More Details Hide Details Although highly paid as Commander of Defense Companies, he accumulated unexplained wealth. According to Hanna Batatu, "there is no way that he could have permissibly accumulated the vast sums needed for the investments he made in real estate in Syria, Europe and the United States". Although it is unclear if any top officials supported Rifaat al-Assad, most did not. He lacked his brother's stature and charisma, and was vulnerable to charges of corruption. His 50,000-strong Defense Companies were viewed with suspicion by the upper leadership and throughout society; they were considered corrupt, poorly disciplined and indifferent to human suffering. Rifaat al-Assad also lacked military support; officers and soldiers resented the Defense Companies' monopoly of Damascus' security, their separate intelligence services and prisons and their higher pay. He did not abandon the hope of succeeding his brother, opting to take control of the country through his post as Commander of Defense Companies. In what became known as the "poster war", personnel from the Defense Companies replaced posters of Assad in Damascus with those of Rifaat al-Assad. The security service, still loyal to Assad, responded by replacing Rifaat al-Assad's posters with Assad's. The poster war lasted for a week, until Assad's health improved.
  • 1984
    Age 53
    During the early 1980s, Syria's economy worsened; by mid-1984, the food crisis was severe, and the press was full of complaints.
    More Details Hide Details Assad's government sought a solution, arguing that food shortages could be avoided with careful economic planning. The food crisis continued through August, despite government measures. Syria lacked sugar, bread, flour, wood, iron and construction equipment; this resulted in soaring prices, long queues and rampant black marketeering. Smuggling goods from Lebanon became common. Assad's government tried to combat the smuggling, encountering difficulties due to the involvement of his brother Rifaat in the corruption. In July 1984, the government formed an effective anti-smuggling squad to control the Lebanon–Syria borders. The Defense Detachment commanded by Rifaat al-Assad played a leading role in the smuggling, importing $400,000 worth of goods a day. The anti-smuggling squad seized $3.8 million in goods during its first week. The Syrian economy grew five to seven percent during the early 1990s; exports increased, the balance of trade improved, inflation remained moderate (15–18 percent) and oil exports increased. In May 1991 Assad's government liberalized the Syrian economy, which stimulated domestic and foreign private investment. Most foreign investors were Arab states around the Persian Gulf, since Western countries still had political and economic issues with the country. The Gulf states invested in infrastructure and development projects; because of the Ba'ath Party's socialist ideology, Assad's government did not privatize state-owned companies.
  • 1983
    Age 52
    In November 1983 Assad, a diabetic, had a major heart attack complicated by phlebitis; this triggered a succession crisis.
    More Details Hide Details On 13 November, after visiting his brother in the hospital, Rifaat al-Assad reportedly announced his candidacy for president; he did not believe Assad would be able to continue ruling the country. When he did not receive support from Assad's inner circle, he made, in the words of historian Hanna Batatu, "abominably lavish" promises to win them over.
  • 1980
    Age 49
    The hard-liners won the debate after a failed attempt on Assad's life in June 1980, and began responding to the uprising with state terrorism later that year.
    More Details Hide Details Under Rifaat al-Assad Islamic prisoners at the Tadmur prison were massacred, membership in the Muslim Brotherhood became a capital offence and the government sent a death squad to kill Bitar and Attar's former wife. The military court began condemning captured militants, which "sometimes degenerated into indiscriminate killings". Little care was taken to distinguish Muslim Brotherhood hard-liners from their passive supporters, and violence was met with violence. The final showdown, the Hama massacre, took place in February 1982 when the government crushed the uprising. Helicopter gunships, bulldozers and artillery bombardment razed the city, killing thousands of people. The Ba'ath government withstood the uprising not because of popular support, but because the opposition was disorganized and had little urban support. Throughout the uprising, the Sunni middle class continued to support the Ba'ath Party because of its dislike of political Islam. After the uprising the government resumed its version of militaristic Leninism, reverting the liberalization introduced when Assad came to power. The Ba'ath Party was weakened by the uprising; democratic elections for delegates to the Regional and National Congresses were halted, and open discussion within the party ended. The uprising made Syria more totalitarian than ever, and strengthened Assad's position as undisputed leader of Syria.
    Believing they had the upper hand in the conflict, beginning in 1980 the Islamists began a series of campaigns against government installations in Aleppo; the attacks became urban guerilla warfare.
    More Details Hide Details The government began to lose control in the city and, inspired by events, similar disturbances spread to Hama, Homs, Idlib, Latakia, Deir ez-Zor, Maaret-en-Namen and Jisr esh-Shagour. Those affected by Ba'athist repression began to rally behind the insurgents; Ba'ath Party co-founder Bitar supported the uprising, rallying the old, anti-military Ba'athists. The increasing threat to the government's survival strengthened the hard-liners, who favored repression over concessions. Security forces began to purge all state, party and social institutions in Syria, and were sent to the northern provinces to quell the uprising. When this failed, the hard-liners began accusing the United States of fomenting the uprising and called for the reinstatement of "revolutionary vigilance".
    The Seventh Regional Congress, in 1980, was held in an atmosphere of crisis.
    More Details Hide Details The party leadership—with the exception of Assad and his proteges—were criticized severely by party delegates, who called for an anti-corruption campaign, a new, clean government, curtailing the powers of the military-security apparatus and political liberalization. With Assad's consent, a new government (headed by the presumably clean Abdul Rauf al-Kasm) was established with new, young technocrats. The new government failed to assuage critics, and the Sunni middle class and the radical left (believing that Ba'athist rule could be overthrown with an uprising) began collaborating with the Islamists.
  • 1976
    Age 45
    When Frangieh stepped down in 1976, Syria pressured Lebanese members of parliament to elect Elias Sarkis president.
    More Details Hide Details One-third of the Lebanese members of parliament (primarily supporters of Raymond Edde) boycotted the election to protest American and Syrian interference. On 31 May 1976, Syria began a full-scale intervention in Lebanon to (according to the official Syrian account) end bombardment of the Maronite cities of Qubayat and Aandqat. Before the intervention, Assad and the Syrian government were one of several interests in Lebanon; afterwards, they were the controlling factors in Lebanese politics. On Assad's orders, the Syrian troop presence slowly increased to 30,000. Syria received approval for the intervention from the United States and Israel to help them defeat Palestinian forces in Lebanon. In July, 1976, Henry Kissinger stated that "Asad has proven he is a careful, thoughtful man." The Ba'athist group As-Sa'iqa and the PLA's Hittīn brigade fought Palestinians who sided with the LNM. Within a week of the Syrian intervention, Christian leaders issued a statement of support. Muslim leaders established a joint command of all Palestinian groups except As-Sa'iqa, which was driven by the PLO to its stronghold near the main airport. Shortly afterwards, As-Sa'iqa and other leftist Damascus forces were absorbed by the Syrian military. On 8 June 1976 Syrian forces were pushed back from Sidon, encountering stiff resistance in Beirut from the LNM. Assad's actions angered much of the Arab world however and the sight of Syria trying to eliminate the PLO brought criticism upon him.
    In early 1976 Assad was approached by Lebanese politicians for help in forcing the resignation of Suleiman Frangieh, the Christian President of Lebanon.
    More Details Hide Details Although Assad was open to change, he resisted attempts by some Lebanese politicians to enlist him in Frangieh's ouster; when General Abdul Aziz al-Ahdāb attempted to seize power, Syrian troops stopped him. In the meantime, radical Lebanese leftists were gaining the upper hand in the military conflict. Kamal Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese National Movement (LNM), believed that his strong military position would compel Frangieh's resignation. Assad did not wish a leftist victory in Lebanon which would strengthen the position of the Palestinians. He did not want a rightist victory either, instead seeking a middle-ground solution which would safeguard Lebanon and the region. When Jumblatt met with Assad on 27 March 1976, he tried to persuade him to let him "win" the war; Assad replied that a ceasefire should be in effect to ensure the 1976 presidential elections. Meanwhile, on Assad's orders Syria sent troops into Lebanon without international approval.
  • 1973
    Age 42
    At 14:05 on 6 October 1973, Egyptian forces (attacking through the Sinai desert) and Syrian forces (attacking the Golan Heights) crossed the border into Israel and penetrated the Israeli defense lines.
    More Details Hide Details The Syrian forces on the Golan Heights met with more intense fighting than their Egyptian counterparts, but by 8 October had broken through the Israeli defenses. The early successes of the Syrian army were due to its officer corps (where officers were promoted because of merit and not politics) and its ability to handle advanced Soviet weaponry: tanks, artillery batteries, aircraft, man-portable missiles, the Sagger anti-tank weapon and the 2K12 Kub anti-aircraft system on mobile launchers. With the help of these weapons, Egypt and Syria neutralized (or slowed) Israel's armor and air supremacy. Egypt and Syria announced the war to the world first, accusing Israel of starting it; Israel had accused the Arabs of starting the Six-Day War. The main reason for the reversal of fortune was Egypt's operational pause from 7 to 14 October. After capturing parts of the Sinai, the Egyptian campaign halted and the Syrians were left fighting the Israelis alone. The Egyptian leaders, believing their war aims accomplished, dug in. While their early successes in the war had surprised them, War Minister General Ahmad Ismail Ali advised caution. In Syria, Assad and his generals waited for the Egyptians to move. When the Israeli government learned of Egypt's modest war strategy, it ordered an "immediate continuous action" against the Syrian military. According to Patrick Seale, "For three days, 7, 8, and 9 October, Syrian troops on the Golan faced the full fury of the Israeli air force as, from first light to nightfall, wave after wave of aircraft swooped down to bomb, strafe and napalm their tank concentration and their fuel and ammunition carriers right back to the Purple Line."
  • 1971
    Age 40
    The new relationship bore fruit, and between February 1971 and October 1973 Assad met several times with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
    More Details Hide Details Assad believed that Syria would have no chance in a war against Israel without Egyptian participation. He believed that if the United Arab Republic had not collapsed, the Arabs would already have liberated Palestine. For a war against Israel, Syria needed to establish another front. However, by this time Syria's relations with Egypt and Jordan were shaky at best. Planning for war began in 1971 with an agreement between Assad and Anwar Sadat. At the beginning, the renewed Egyptian–Syrian alliance was based upon the proposed Federation of Arab Republics (FAR), a federation initially encompassing Egypt, Libya, Sudan (which left soon after FAR's first summit) and Syria. Assad and Sadat used the FAR summits to plan war strategy, and by 1971 they had appointed Egyptian General Muhammad Sadiq supreme commander of both armies. From 1972 to 1973, the countries filled their arsenals and trained their armies. In a secret meeting of the Egyptian–Syrian Military Council from 21 to 23 August 1973, the two chiefs of staff (Syrian Yusuf Shakkur and Egyptian Sad al-Shazly) signed a document declaring their intention to go to war against Israel. During a meeting of Assad, Sadat and their respective defense ministers (Tlass and Hosni Mubarak) on 26–27 August, the two leaders decided to go to war together.
  • 1970
    Age 39
    Most of Jadid's supporters faced a choice: continue working for the Ba'ath government under Assad, or face repression. Assad made it clear from the beginning "that there would be no second chances". However, later in 1970 he recruited support from the Ba'athist old guard who had supported Aflaq's leadership during the 1963–1966 power struggle.
    More Details Hide Details An estimated 2,000 former Ba'athists rejoined the party after hearing Assad's appeal, among them party ideologist Georges Saddiqni and Shakir al-Fahham, a secretary of the founding, 1st National Congress of the Ba'ath Party in 1947. Assad ensured that they would not defect to the pro-Aflaqite Ba'ath Party in Iraq with the Treason Trials in 1971, in which he prosecuted Aflaq, Amin al-Hafiz and nearly 100 followers (most in absentia). The few who were convicted were not imprisoned long, and the trials were primarily symbolic. At the 11th National Congress Assad assured party members that his leadership was a radical change from that of Jadid, and he would implement a "corrective movement" to return Syria to the true "nationalist socialist line". Unlike Jadid, Assad emphasized "the advancement of which all resources and manpower be mobilised to be the liberation of the occupied territories". This would mark a major break with his predecessors and would, according to Raymond Hinnebusch, dictate "major alterations in the course of the Ba'thist state".
    When the National Congress ended on 12 November 1970, Assad ordered loyalists to arrest leading members of Jadid's government.
    More Details Hide Details Although many mid-level officials were offered posts in Syrian embassies abroad, Jadid refused: "If I ever take power, you will be dragged through the streets until you die." Assad imprisoned him in Mezze prison until his death. The coup was calm and bloodless; the only evidence of change to the outside world was the disappearance of newspapers, radio and television stations. A Temporary Regional Command was soon established, and on 16 November the new government published its first decree. According to Patrick Seale, Assad's rule "began with an immediate and considerable advantage: the government he displaced was so detested that any alternative came as a relief". He first tried to establish national unity, which he felt had been lost under the leadership of Aflaq and Jadid. Assad differed from his predecessor at the outset, visiting local villages and hearing citizen complaints. The Syrian people felt that Assad's rise to power would lead to change; one of his first acts as ruler was to visit Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, father of the Aflaqite Ba'athist Mansur al-Atrash, to honor his efforts during the Great Arab Revolution. He made overtures to the Writers' Union, rehabilitating those who had been forced underground, jailed or sent into exile for representing what radical Ba'athists called the reactionary classes: "I am determined that you shall no longer feel strangers in your own country." Although Assad did not democratize the country, he eased the government's repressive policies.
  • 1969
    Age 38
    From 25 to 28 February 1969, the Assad brothers initiated "something just short of a coup".
    More Details Hide Details Under Assad's authority, tanks were moved into Damascus and the staffs of al-Ba'ath and al-Thawra (two party newspapers) and radio stations in Damascus and Aleppo were replaced with Assad loyalists. Latakia and Tartus, two Alawite-dominated cities, saw "fierce scuffles" ending with the overthrow of Jadid's supporters from local posts. Shortly afterwards, a wave of arrests of Jundi loyalists began. On 2 March, after a telephone argument with head of military intelligence Ali Dhadha, Jundi committed suicide. When Zu'ayyin heard the news he wept, saying "we are all orphaned now" (referring to his and Jadid's loss of their protector). Despite the fact that Assad drove Jundi to suicide, he is said to have also wept when he heard the news. Assad was now in control, but he hesitated to push his advantage. Jadid continued to rule Syria, and the Regional Command was unchanged. However, Assad influenced Jadid to moderate his policies. Class struggle was muted, criticism of reactionary tendencies of other Arab states ceased, some political prisoners were freed, a coalition government was formed (with the Ba'ath Party in control) and the Eastern Front—espoused by Assad—was formed with Iraq and Jordan. Jadid's isolationist policies were curtailed, and Syria reestablished diplomatic relations with many of its foes. Around this time, Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt, Houari Boumediene's Algeria and Ba'athist Iraq began sending emissaries to reconcile Assad and Jadid.
    In February 1969, the Assad-Jadid conflict erupted in violent clashes through their respective proteges: Rifaat al-Assad (Assad's brother and a high-ranking military commander) and Jundi.
    More Details Hide Details The reason for the violence was Rifaat al-Assad's suspicion that Jundi was planning an attempt on Assad's life. The suspected assassin was interrogated and confessed under torture. Acting on this information, Rifaat al-Assad argued that unless Jundi was removed from his post he and his brother were in danger.
  • 1968
    Age 37
    By the Fourth Regional Congress and Tenth National Congress in September and October 1968, Assad had extended his grip on the army, and Jadid still controlled the party.
    More Details Hide Details At both congresses, Assad was outvoted on most issues, and his arguments were firmly rejected. While he failed in most of his attempts, he had enough support to remove two socialist theoreticians (Prime Minister Yusuf Zu'ayyin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Makhus) from the Regional Command. However, the military's involvement in party politics was unpopular with the rank and file; as the gulf between Assad and Jadid widened, the civilian and military party bodies were forbidden to contact each other. Despite this, Assad was winning the race to accumulate power. As Munif al-Razzaz (ousted in the 1966 Syrian coup d'état) noted, "Jadid's fatal mistake was to attempt to govern the army through the party". While Assad had taken control of the armed forces through his position as Minister of Defense, Jadid still controlled the security and intelligence sectors through Abd al-Karim al-Jundi (head of the National Security Bureau). Jundi—a paranoid, cruel man—was feared throughout Syria.
    When the Ba'athist Iraqi Regional Branch (which continued to support the Aflaqite leadership) took control of Iraq in the 17 July Revolution, Assad was one of the few high-level politicians wishing to reconcile with them; he called for the establishment of an "Eastern Front" with Iraq against Israel in 1968.
    More Details Hide Details Jadid's foreign policy towards the Soviet Union was also criticized by Assad, who believed it had failed. In many ways the relationship between the countries was poor, with the Soviets refusing to acknowledge Jadid's scientific socialism and Soviet newspapers calling him a "hothead". Assad, on the contrary, called for greater pragmatism in decision-making. Asad gave the questioner a hard look but said nothing. A little later the subject came up again and this time Asad said: I've heard something disagreeable about this officer. When he was on a course in England in 1954, his brother wrote asking for help for their sick mother. X took a £5 note out of his pocket, held it up and said he wouldn't part with it to save her life. The conflict between Assad and Jadid became the talk of the army and the party, with a "duality of power" noted between them. Shortly after the failed attempt to expel Assad from the Regional Command, he began to consolidate his position in the military establishment—for example, by replacing Chief of Staff Ahmad al-Suwaydani with his friend Mustafa Tlass. Although Suwaydani's relationship with Jadid had deteriorated, he was removed because of his complaints about "Alawi influence in the army". Tlass was later appointed Assad's Deputy Minister of Defense (his second-in-command). Others removed from their positions were Ahmad al-Mir (a founder and former member of the Military Committee, and former commander of the Golan Front) and Izzat Jadid (a close supporter of Jadid and commander of the 70th Armoured Brigade).
  • 1965
    Age 34
    At the Eighth National Congress in 1965 Assad was elected to the National Command, the party's highest decision-making body.
    More Details Hide Details From his position as part of the National Command, Assad informed Jadid on its activities. After the congress, the National Command dissolved the Syrian Regional Command; Aflaq proposed Salah al-Din al-Bitar as prime minister, but Assad and Ibrahim Makhus opposed Bitar's nomination. According to Seale, Assad abhorred Aflaq; he considered him an autocrat and a rightist, accusing him of "ditching" the party by ordering the dissolution of the Syrian Regional Branch in 1958. Assad, who also disliked Aflaq's supporters, nevertheless opposed a show of force against the Aflaqites. In response to the imminent coup Assad, Naji Jamil, Husayn Mulhim and Yusuf Sayigh left for London. In the 1966 Syrian coup d'état, the Military Committee overthrew the National Command. The coup led to a permanent schism in the Ba'ath movement, the advent of neo-Ba'athism and the establishment of two centers of the international Ba'athist movement: one Iraqi- and the other Syrian-dominated.
  • 1963
    Age 32
    From the 1963 Syrian coup d'état to the Six-Day War in 1967, Assad did not play a leading role in politics and was usually overshadowed by his contemporaries.
    More Details Hide Details As Patrick Seale wrote, he was "apparently content to be a solid member of the team without the aspiration to become number one". Although Jadid was slow to see Assad's threat, shortly after the war Assad began developing a network in the military and promoted friends and close relatives to high positions. Assad believed that Syria's defeat in the Six-Day War was Jadid's fault, and the accusations against himself were unjust. By this time Jadid had total control of the Regional Command, whose members supported his policies. Assad and Jadid began to differ on policy; Assad believed that Jadid's policy of a people's war (an armed-guerrilla strategy) and class struggle had failed Syria, undermining its position. Although Jadid continued to champion the concept of a people's war even after the Six-Day War, Assad opposed it. He felt that the Palestinian guerrilla fighters had been given too much autonomy and had raided Israel constantly, which in turn sparked the war. Jadid had broken diplomatic relations with countries he deemed reactionary, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Because of this, Syria did not receive aid from other Arab countries. Egypt and Jordan, who participated in the war, received £135 million per year for an undisclosed period.
    Hatum (who felt snubbed when he was not appointed to the Regional Command after the February 1966 coup d'état) sought revenge and the return to power of Hammud al-Shufi, the first Regional Secretary of the Regional Command after the Syrian Regional Branch's re-establishment in 1963.
    More Details Hide Details When Jadid, Atassi and Regional Command member Jamil Shayya visited Suwayda, forces loyal to Hatum surrounded the city and captured them. In a twist of fate, the city's Druze elders forbade the murder of their guests and demanded that Hatum wait. Jadid and the others were placed under house arrest, with Hatum planning to kill them at his first opportunity. When word of the mutiny spread to the Ministry of Defense, Assad ordered the 70th Armored Brigade to the city. By this time Hatum, a Druze, knew that Assad would order the bombardment of Suwayda (a Druze-dominated city) if Hatum did not accede to his demands. Hatum and his supporters fled to Jordan, where they were given asylum. How Assad learned about the conspiracy is unknown, but Mustafa al-Hajj Ali (head of Military Intelligence) may have telephoned the Ministry of Defense. Due to his prompt action, Assad earned Jadid's gratitude.
    Khalid al-Falhum, a Palestinian who would later work for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), met Assad in 1963; he noted that Assad was a strong leftist "but was clearly not a communist", committed instead to Arab nationalism.
    More Details Hide Details During the 1964 Hama riot, Assad voted to suppress the uprising violently if needed. The decision to suppress the Hama riot led to a schism in the Military Committee between Umran and Jadid. Umran opposed force, instead wanting the Ba'ath Party to create a coalition with other pan-Arab forces. Jadid desired a strong one-party state, similar to those in the communist countries of Europe. Assad, as junior partner, kept quiet at first but eventually allied himself with Jadid. Why Assad chose to side with him has been widely discussed; he probably shared Jadid's radical ideological outlook. Having lost his footing on the Military Committee, Umran aligned himself with Aflaq and the National Command; he told them that the Military Committee was planning to seize power in the party by ousting them. Because of Umran's defection, Rifaat al-Assad (Assad's brother) succeeded Umran as commander of a secret military force tasked with protecting Military Committee loyalists.
    In the aftermath of the 1963 coup, at the First Regional Congress (held 5 September 1963) Assad was elected to the Syrian Regional Command (the highest decision-making body in the Syrian Regional Branch).
    More Details Hide Details While not a leadership role, it was Assad's first appearance in national politics; in retrospect, he said he positioned himself "on the left" in the Regional Command.
    Assad was promoted to major and then to lieutenant colonel, and by the end of 1963 was in charge of the Syrian Air Force.
    More Details Hide Details By the end of 1964 he was named commander of the Air Force, with the rank of major general. Assad gave privileges to Air Force officers, appointed his confidants to senior and sensitive positions and established an efficient intelligence network. Air Force Intelligence, under the command of Muhammad al-Khuli, became independent of Syria's other intelligence organizations and received assignments beyond Air Force jurisdiction. Assad prepared himself for an active role in the power struggles that lay ahead.
  • 1962
    Age 31
    Assad played a minor role in the failed 1962 military coup, for which he was jailed in Lebanon and later repatriated.
    More Details Hide Details That year, Aflaq convened the 5th National Congress of the Ba'ath Party (where he was reelected as the Secretary General of the National Command) and ordered the re-establishment of the party's Syrian Regional Branch. At the Congress, the Military Committee (through Umran) established contacts with Aflaq and the civilian leadership. The committee requested permission to seize power by force, and Aflaq agreed to the conspiracy. After the success of the Iraqi coup d'état led by the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi Regional Branch, the Military Committee hastily convened to launch a Ba'athist military coup in March 1963 against President Nazim al-Kudsi (which Assad helped plan). The coup was scheduled for 7 March, but he announced a postponement (until the next day) to the other units. During the coup Assad led a small group to capture the Dumayr air base, northeast of Damascus. His group was the only one that encountered resistance. Some planes at the base were ordered to bomb the conspirators, and because of this Assad hurried to reach the base before dawn. Because the 70th Armored Brigade's surrender took longer than anticipated, however, he arrived in broad daylight. When Assad threatened the base commander with shelling, the commander negotiated a surrender; Assad later claimed that the base could have withstood his forces.
  • 1961
    Age 30
    After Syria left the UAR in September 1961, Assad and other Ba'athist officers were removed from the military by the new government in Damascus, and he was given a minor clerical position at the Ministry of Transport.
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  • 1957
    Age 26
    In 1957–58 Assad rose to a dominant position in the Military Committee, which mitigated his transfer to Egypt.
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    In 1957, as squadron commander, Assad was sent to the Soviet Union for training in flying MiG-17s.
    More Details Hide Details He spent ten months in the Soviet Union, during which he fathered a daughter (who died as an infant while he was abroad) with his wife. In 1958 Syria and Egypt formed the United Arab Republic (UAR), separating themselves from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey (who were aligned with the United Kingdom). This pact led to the rejection of Communist influence in favor of Egyptian control over Syria. All Syrian political parties (including the Ba'ath Party) were dissolved, and senior officers—especially those who supported the Communists—were dismissed from the Syrian armed forces. Assad, however, remained in the army and rose quickly through the ranks. After reaching the rank of captain he was transferred to Egypt, continuing his military education with future president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. Assad was not content with a professional military career, regarding it as a gateway to politics. After the creation of the UAR, Ba'ath Party leader Michel Aflaq was forced by Nasser to dissolve the party. During the UAR's existence, the Ba'ath Party experienced a crisis for which several of its members—mostly young—blamed Aflaq. To resurrect the Syrian Regional Branch of the party, Muhammad Umran, Salah Jadid, Assad and others established the Military Committee.
    In his early 20s, he married Anisa Makhlouf in 1957, a distant relative of a powerful family. In 1954, the military split in a revolt against President Adib Shishakli. Hashim al-Atassi, head of the National Bloc and briefly president after Sami al-Hinnawi's coup, returned as president and Syria was again under civilian rule. After 1955, Atassi's hold on the country was increasingly shaky. As a result of the 1955 election Atassi was replaced by Shukri al-Quwatli, who was president before Syria's independence from France.
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  • 1956
    Age 25
    When Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Syria feared retaliation from the United Kingdom, and Assad flew in an air-defense mission.
    More Details Hide Details He was among the Syrian pilots who flew to Cairo to show Syria's commitment to Egypt. After finishing a course in Egypt the following year, Assad returned to a small air base near Damascus. During the Suez Crisis, he also flew a reconnaissance mission over northern and eastern Syria.
  • 1955
    Age 24
    In 1955, Assad was sent to Egypt for a further six months of training.
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    Assad graduated in 1955, after which he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Syrian Air Force.
    More Details Hide Details Upon graduation from flying school he won a best-aviator trophy, and shortly afterwards was assigned to the Mezze air base near Damascus.
  • 1950
    Age 19
    He wanted to fly, and entered the flying school in Aleppo in 1950.
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    After graduating from high school Assad wanted to be a medical doctor, but his father could not pay for his study at the Jesuit University of St. Joseph in Beirut. Instead, in 1950 he decided to join the Syrian Armed Forces.
    More Details Hide Details Assad entered the military academy in Homs, which offered free food, lodging and a stipend.
  • 1949
    Age 18
    While still a teenager, Assad became increasingly prominent in the party as an organizer and recruiter, head of his school's student-affairs committee from 1949 to 1951 and president of the Union of Syrian Students.
    More Details Hide Details During his political activism in school, he met many men who would serve him when he was president.
  • 1936
    Age 5
    In 1936, he was one of 80 Alawite notables who signed a letter addressed to the French Prime Minister saying that "the Alawi people rejected attachment to Syria and wished to stay under French protection."
    More Details Hide Details For his accomplishments, he was called al-Assad (a lion) by local residents and made the nickname his surname in 1927. Alawites initially opposed a united Syrian state (since they thought their status as a religious minority would endanger them), and Hafez's father shared this belief. As the French left Syria, many Syrians mistrusted Alawites because of their alignment with France. Hafez left his Alawite village, beginning his education at age nine in Sunni-dominated Latakia. He was the first in his family to attend high school, but in Latakia Assad faced Sunni anti-Alawite bias. He was an excellent student, winning several prizes at about age 14. Assad lived in a poor, predominantly Alawite part of Latakia; to fit in, he approached political parties that welcomed Alawites. These parties (which also espoused secularism) were the Syrian Communist Party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) and the Arab Ba'ath Party; Assad joined the latter in 1946, and some of his friends belonged to the SSNP. The Ba'ath (Renaissance) Party espoused a pan-Arabist, socialist ideology.
  • 1930
    Born on October 6, 1930.
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