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at the water's edge
Bashar al-Assad a.k.a. "The
Duck Lion of Syria" is the current "president" of the Syrian Arab Republic and (not-coincidentally) head of the Syrian Ba'ath Party. Dubya used to outsource torture to him.
A little over a decade after he assumed office, the country erupted into civil war. As the war dragged on, both sides got more extreme and religious fanatics—fresh from years of fighting in other places—took over the fighting.
He was trained to be an eye surgeon, not a dentist as various media reports have said. When his father died and his brother got in a car accident, Bashar took over the leadership role. The Assads have ruled Syria for 40 years now. The tops of the government and the military are stacked with family members and other Alawites.
He's a "native" Syrian who attended exclusive French-speaking schools. His First Lady is an investment banker, born in London. Under her influence, he tried to modernize the Syrian economy, with mixed results. He couldn't manage the water supply as well as his father did, and his attempts at modernization only deepened the stratification of Alawi and non-Alawi
Bashar is an Alawite, i.e. member of a Shia minority, ruling a 74% Sunni majority country. This alone divides him from Jordan, pre-invasion Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and (of course) his own people. However, he is not alone, as Hezbollah in nearby Lebanon is Shia, which is why they are assisting him in his fight.
Bashar is the son of the former President, Hafez Assad. Hafez was more capable than his son, or at least was able to suppress a Syrian revolt before it became a full-blown civil war. (He leveled the city of Hama in 1982, killing some 20,000+ of his own citizens.) The event earned the family a bad rep with Islamists who support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hafez was also, frankly, a dictator who was involved in a lot of Cold War bullshit. As a result, what is playing out in Syria is a lame proxy war with Iran and its allies vs. Saudi Arabia and its allies. Then throw in some U.S. v. Russia dick-waving, with Russia attempting to prop up Assad (their ally) under the guise of "fighting ISIS". The U.S. mostly wants Assad gone but doesn't want groups like Al-Nusra or ISIS to take his place.
The protests against Assad's government began on 26 January 2011; In May, Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions upon him. Bashar saw what happened to Saddam, and when the Arab Spring heated up, he knew the time had come for the U.S. to change leaders they didn't like. Assad wasn't going to go down without a fight. When munitions and cash poured in from the Saudis, Qatar, and Turkey, he countered by bringing in Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia. Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution which would have allowed for international military intervention in Syria.
Obama's "red line", and Assad crossing said line, gave hope to a lot of rebels. Shiites aren't stupid: they knew Assad stood no chance against the U.S. When said line was not enforced, many interviews showed how disheartened rebels felt by the U.S. and its lackluster support. Instead, the U.S. ordered airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if said enemies hail from forces loyal to Assad.
Still, there was increasing pressure coming from Western and Sunni Arab capitals to support an insurgency; the problem is it turned out to be Salafiist, and the situation became so complicated, nobody knows who to support anymore. Assad himself has been described as "Hitler in his bunker" as he doesn't seem to know how badly the war is going.
On April 6, 2017, a sarin gas attack was blamed on the rebels, but it was quickly proven false. The next day, the newly-minted President Trump decided to get Bashar's attention. It was a surprisingly measured attack: the Pentagon made sure not to put any Syrian (or Russian) air defenses and pilots at risk. This gives Russia an out. Putin doesn't care about Assad, anyway, he wants access to the port of Tartus.
The following day, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the regime change in Syria "is going to happen." As every observer of the Middle East knows, outside intervention is invariably successful.Do You Believe That?
Leftist bona fides
A secular ideology is a benefit of Putinism. Despite condemnations of the Syrian government for massive human rights violations, the Ba'athists in power actually achieved greater women's rights than other Arab countries.
After a 52-year-old ban, Syrian Kurds were allowed to teach the Kurdish language in schools.
You have a talent for causing things pain
“”Al Assad, or we set the country on fire.
|—Alawites professed their loyalty with this chant.|
Saddam murdered more innocent people, but the referee didn't end the match yet for Assad; with hard work and determination anything is possible. He oppresses the indigenous minorities of Syria, banning them from speaking their own language, and sends loyal Alawites to settle those areas in order to extract their resources. There are more ways than the neo-colonial method to be "imperialist."
- Muammar al-Gaddafi
- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – Syrian society was secular before the war. The same cannot be said for the rebel groups he is fighting, who want a Sunni theocracy.
- Qasem Soleimani – Major offensives by Iranian militias always start after a 'visit' from Soleimani.
- Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
- Human rights violations in Syria
- "A Rose in the Desert" - Vogue removed this profile of his waifu from their website. The biggest laugh to be had from it: Assad was attracted to eye surgery "because there is very little blood."
- Trump on Syria: How he evolved in 13 Tweets
- "From Lion to ‘Duck’: Assad’s nickname goes viral", Alarabiya.net (ENG) via Agence France‑Presse 3.28.12.
- Walt, Vivienne, "Inside the CIA's Secret Prisons Program", TIME 10/13.16.
- Sachs, Susan, "Man in the News; The Shy Young Doctor at Syria's Helm; Bashar al-Assad", NYT 6.14.00.
- "Assad Regime’s Drought Response Triggered Syrian War", Environmental News Service (2/28/14 at 1:26 pm ).
- Fisher, Max, "'The Assad suburb': How Syria ghettoized the military to keep it loyal", Vox (11/5/15 at 8:30am EST)
- "Hezbollah, other Shi'ite allies helped Assad win in Aleppo", Reuters (12/14/16 at 10:55am EST).
- Abrams, Elliot, "Assad’s War for Survival in Syria Is Now Iran’s War", Newsweek (7/10/15 at 11:02 AM).
- Boghani, Priyanka, "Syria: What’s In It For Putin?", Frontline 10/27/14.
- " Administration Takes Additional Steps to Hold the Government of Syria Accountable for Violent Repression Against the Syrian People", US Treasury
- "Turkey, Qatar, Saudis agreed to put pressure on Syrian rebels: Russia", MEE (Updated 10/18/16 at 10:30 om UTC).
- "Iraq, Russia, Iran and Syria coordinate against ISIL", Al Jazeera 9.27.15.
- Paul Harris, Martin Chulov, David Batty, and Damien Pearse, "Syria resolution vetoed by Russia and China at United Nations", Guardian (2/4/12 at 5:28 EST).
- Kessler, Glenn, "President Obama and the ‘red line’ on Syria’s chemical weapons", WaPo 9.3.13.
- "Syrians relieved, disappointed at Obama strike delay", Reuters (9/1/13 at 12:06pm EDT).
- Stewart, Phil, "First U.S.-trained Syria rebel believed killed in fighting: sources", Reuters (8/3/15 at 6:12pm EDT).
- "‘Sociopath or new Hitler?’ Interviewer questions Assad’s mental state", Al Aarabiya (ENG) 1.28.15.
- Weiss, Michael, "Russia: Syria Gas Attack Victims Faked It", Daily Beast (04.05.17 at 2:50 PM ET).
- McKernan, Bethan, "Syria gas attack: Victims’ bodies show evidence ‘two chemical weapons used’", Independent (4/5/17 at 7:23 PM BST).
- McKernan, "Syria air strikes: US ‘warned Russia ahead of airbase missile bombardment'", Independent (4/7/17 at 11:42 AM BST).
- Delman, Edward, "The Link Between Putin’s Military Campaigns in Syria and Ukraine", Atlantic 10.2.15.
- Morin, Rebecca, "Haley: Regime change in Syria 'we think is going to happen'", Politico (04/08/17 at 7:25 PM EDT).
- "Syria's Assad says political Islam project has failed", Hurriyet Daily News 4.7.14.
- "After 52-year ban, Syrian Kurds now taught Kurdish in schools", Al-Monitor Nov. 2015.
- Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, Mai, "Syrian Alawites: Their history, their future", The Islamic Monthly (10/28/15 at 3:15 pm).
- Porter, Lizzie, "Former detainees recount torture, organ harvesting in Syria's prisons", MEE (8/29/16 at 7:34 PM UTC).
- Pampiliega, Antonio, "Turkmen in joint battle for Syria democracy", Your Middle East 1.31.13.
- "Syria's Alawites, a secretive and persecuted sect", Reuters (2/2/12 at 6:10am EST).
- Khalil, Yusef, "Syria and the Left", Jacobin 1.9/17.