Asad's Legacy: Syria in Transition
by Eyal Zisser
New York: New York University Press, 2001. 218 pp. $34.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Zisser has emerged as the leading young Syrian analyst in Israel—a country where they take analysis of Syria very seriously indeed. He achieved this status through a levelheaded and intelligent knowledge of his subject, traits clearly on view in this, his second book.
The title suggests a speculative book about the change of leader in Syria; in fact, Zisser has written something quite different and more solid—a review of Syrian politics, especially of foreign relations, since 1990. After a brief introduction on the Asad system of rule, he takes up the two main changes of 1990-91 (the Kuwait war, the Soviet collapse) and takes up three main topics—the international position of Syria, its relations with Israel and with Lebanon.
The author tends to steer a middle course in some of the main debates about the Asad regime, finding virtue in both positions, whether it be the nature of the Asad regime (rural or sectarian?) or the ideology of the regime (pan-Syrian or pan-Arabist?). That is not to say that Zisser lacks opinions, for he has several trademark views, some of them controversial: a skepticism about "the praises that have been heaped on Asad and his regime," an inclination to grant that "Asad's regime genuinely represented the constituent parts of Syrian society," and a belief, even at this late date, that Asad really did intend to sign a peace treaty with Israel. This reviewer would argue with all those positions, but he could find few better equipped to argue with about them.
Related Topics: Syria | Daniel Pipes | Summer 2001 MEQ
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