The first week of June 2000 found Damascus bustling with activity in preparation for the Ba'th Party congress opening on June 17. That was no ordinary party conclave but the first in fifteen years and the occasion for the planned investiture of Bashshar al-Asad as successor to his father, Hafiz. The 34-year old was to be elected a member of the Party's Regional Command, facilitating a quiet and orderly transition process.
But an unpleasant surprise marred these preparations: on the morning of June 10, the 69-year old ruler of Syria died, reportedly while talking on the telephone to his Lebanese counterpart. The rite of investiture was thus preceded by a funeral rite.
If Asad's death was untimely, preceding his son's elevation by a mere week, it did come at a point when the son appeared to be ready to take on his father's mantle. It had long been an open secret that the previous year had witnessed an unprecedented deterioration in the elder Asad's state of health, and that he had hardly functioned as his country's president; his days were understood to be numbered. This had given the grooming Bashshar as successor an urgent quality and the first half of the year 2000 saw both him and the Syrian regime at large preparing for the transition of power. When the moment arrived finally, the process worked smoothly and Bashshar rapidly ascended to become Syria's president.
His formal investiture left key questions unanswered, however. Would Bashshar manage to hold on to power? How much would domestic and foreign policies change? The answers depend in part on the personality and leadership qualities of Bashshar himself; but they also depend in large part on the legacy left him by his father - or more precisely, on the state of affairs in Syria during Asad's last days.
When Ehud Barak became Israeli prime minister, he flattered Hafiz al-Asad, calling him "the builder of modern Syria."1 Soon after, when the Israeli-Syrian peace process reached a dead end, Barak changed his tune, explaining that he found it difficult to understand what is in Asad's mind, since the man is "an aged dictator who follows the Ceausescu style," referring to the late dictator of Romania.2 Which one of these contrary statements was the more accurate? Actually, both were true. Through a mixture of determination and brutality, Asad did transform the modern state of Syria over his thirty-year rule. At the same time, his regime has been in a state of prolonged decline, to the point that the Syrian ship has been without a captain for several years already, during which no major decisions have been made in the spheres of foreign or domestic policy. The result has been not just stagnation, but deterioration in nearly all areas of Syrian life.
In February 2000, the Egyptian journalist Hasanayn Haykal, well-known among Arabic speakers as the confidant of Gamal Abdel Nasser and a keeper of his legacy, published an article in which he stated an intention to express his "sympathy and appreciation" for the "tremendous difficulties" Asad faces on both the strategic and personal levels. Despite this positive purpose, the article was severely critical of Asad. Haykal found Syria in a state of total stagnation, and he blamed this on the system created by Asad in the early 1970s and its failure to adapt to changing realities:
The prolonged existence of a regime in power, at least thirty years, has perforce resulted in irregularities and blunders.... in the course of Asad's years in power, the Syrian regime apparatus has lost its taste for change and renewal, all of this in a world in which conditions for survival today, and which will more than likely exist in the future, are much different from what had been the norm in the past.3Haykal's article aroused anger in Damascus, which had Syrian and Lebanese writers condemn Haykal, calling him "a person of some stature, who understands nothing at all about Syria, and so would do well not to deal with its affairs nor to hand down a verdict as to what is going on in Syria."4 But Haykal's diagnosis was correct.
The political system. As established and shaped by Asad after his taking power in November 1970, the system may have made some sense in its time but it no longer fits current realities. Its ideological bases—pan-Arabism, socialism of the East European school, and struggle against Israel and West—long ago lost their luster, their validity, and relevance; instead, they are a millstone around the Damascene neck. The regime's political basis has deteriorated, being based mainly on a coalition of Asad's own ‘Alawi religious community with various other minority sects and rural Sunnis. The accelerated rate of urbanization of Syrian society (as well as other developments) renders this coalition increasingly irrelevant; the slums rising on the outskirts of the large towns, especially Damascus, might become sources of unrest and perhaps even an Islamic revival, which in turn could undermine stability.
The institutions Asad had long ago established - the People's Assembly, the political parties united in the National Progressive Front – have become devoid of any content and lost their relevance to public life in Syria. In the words of Patrick Seale, a British journalist who served as Asad's biographer and confidant, "They do not serve as a focus of attraction to anyone who is younger than sixty years old."5 This change poses a threat to the Ba‘th Party, which has long been (along with the army) a main channel of mobilizing the members of rural communities and the lower classes.
Economics. There has been an absence of economic strategy and an unwillingness to deal with the resulting problems.6 The much-bruited Law No. 10 of May 1991 was to encourage investment, create new jobs, and raise the standard of living but this law metamorphosed into a monument to Syria's economic failures. Plainly put, it achieved none of its goals. A modern banking system was not established, advanced communication technology was not introduced, and changing economic realities were not accommodated. (Only after the formation of a new government in Syria in March 2000, were some changes introduced in this law, and even they were limited and were not followed by any changes on the ground.)7 There was good reason for this reluctance: the Syrian government avoided taking steps to lead Syria toward more economic openness, fearing the effect of such openness on the political stability in the country; also perhaps a lack of understanding or interest in economic affairs among the top leadership helps account for this state of affairs. Ignoring those many in Syria calling for establishing a stock exchange, developing a banking system, and the use technological innovations, the authorities just kept doing the same old things. An intense argument raged in parliament and in the (all official) Syrian newspapers between those calling for change and those wanting to maintain the status quo. The latter, which still included the senior members of the political and security apparatuses, clearly won nearly every battle, because the security mentality governed almost every aspect of the Asad regime.
Foreign policy. A decade ago, it seemed that Asad had adopted a new foreign policy, one that responded to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the only superpower in the world. The new policy, which involved reconciliation with Egypt and other moderate pro-Western Arab countries and the decision to join the anti-Iraqi coalition led by the United States during the Gulf war, as well as the decision to join the Madrid round of peace process in late 1991, bore fruit. It consolidated Syria's relations with pro-Western Arab countries, improved relations with Western Europe, and established a dialogue with the United States. But this policy did not to lead to a basic change in Damascus' political orientation, perhaps because the price would have been too high – a peace treaty with Israel and political and economic dependence on the West. Asad preferred to waver between East and West. Each time he had to make a clear-cut determination (for example, whether to sign a treaty with Israel), he avoided it. This duality reflected the cautious, hesitant nature of the Syrian regime and its leader.
And so it is that on the eve of Asad's death, Syria found itself isolated. It remained entangled in the conflict with Israel, relations with Turkey had gone through a grave crisis, suspicion and lack of trust characterized relations with Egypt, and the dialogue with Washington remained limited and circumscribed. Even in Lebanon—whose occupation was Asad's main achievement as president—the Syrian presence has been threatened for the first time since Syria took that country over in 1990. This development may turn in the future Syrian presence in Lebanon into a burden for Syria.8 The only ray of light remaining, as in the past, was the two-decade old alliance with Iran. In the sphere of foreign relations, as in politics and economics, Asad lead Syria into a dead end.
By the nature of the Syrian regime, it was Asad himself - his policies, his personality, and his health - who stood at the focal point of Syria's problems along the 1990s. The Syrian regime was his creation and it centered around him. It was his personal achievement to turn Syria from a highly unstable country into a stable one; however, towards the end of the 1990s, it was his fault that the country had reached an impasse.
Asad remained totally in charge to the very end, on every significant issue. His actions vis-à-vis Israel was a case in point. Even if, as press reports had it, Syria's Foreign Minister Faruq ash-Shar` took the initiative to show some flexibility in January 2000 during the Shepherdstown talks, his efforts vanished into thin air when Asad presented a tough and uncompromising line at the Geneva summit between himself and President Clinton two months later (specifically, the demand that Israel turn over to Syria the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee).9
The problem was that Asad no longer functioned at his best. In his early years, he demonstrated vitality, activity and, some initiative. Asad immersed himself in domestic issues and traveled extensively all over Syria. Known for insanely long working hours, he worked late into the night, forcing senior members of the military and security services to do likewise. He was creative in establishing institutions; an effective ruling apparatus made him the strong leader. Asad did an impressive job of restoring the Syrian army's might following losses against Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982. In foreign affairs too, Asad also had much to show, forging alliances with the Soviet Union and Iran, taking control of Lebanon, and deftly grappling with the Kuwait crisis.
But since the beginning of the 1990s, Asad's daily scheduled had been characterized mainly by the absence of real activity. He rarely left his residence and only infrequently held official meetings. Meetings with his close political associates or colleagues in the Syrian leadership, people like Khaddam or Talas, hardly ever took place and those with ministers and generals were even rarer. When such a meeting did occur, it was immediately reported on by the Syrian media as proof of business-as-usual, though it actually showed the opposite. Asad held precisely one meeting with his cabinet in the course of the 1990s (in December 1992, to discuss Syria's energy problems) and this too was widely covered in the Syrian media.10 Asad also refrained from initiating new laws and decrees. He long ago lost any interest in running the day-to-day affairs of Syria, and in recent years his health had prevented him from efficiently managing these matters.
Take the matter of government formation: On February 10, 1999, Asad won the usual majority of 99.99 percent of the votes at a referendum held to approve his candidacy for presidency. On March 12, he arrived at the People's Assembly to be sworn in, over a month after he began his fifth term as president of Syria. The swearing-in ceremony was shorter than usual, and in unusual move, Asad did not address the assembly following the ceremony. Later that same day, the surprised deputies received copies of the address that the president had prepared for them, and from its contents, it was clearly supposed to have been read from the speaker's podium.11 Further, it has long been the case in Syria that Asad begins a new term of office, the government resigns and a new one is soon established, even if sometimes identical to its predecessor. This time Asad needed a full year for the change of government to be implemented. The process of forming the new government was also unusually long and drawn out: it took two weeks after the resignation of Prime Minister Mahmud az-Zu`bi to choose a new prime minister, Mustafa Miru, and the latter required an abnormally long two weeks to put his government together.
Asad had also severely limited his addresses to the Syria public in speeches to the nation and his interviews with the media. Once, he every year addressed the country on March 8, the anniversary of the Ba‘th Revolution; but the last time he fulfilled this ritual obligation was in 1990. In December 1998, the People's Assembly met for its first session following the parliamentary elections held in November of that year. Asad deviated from his years-long practice and did not appear at the assembly's first session following an election to address parliament. The speaker of the assembly, ‘Abd al-Qadir Qaddura, laconically explained that the president was absent because he was suffering from "a severe cold."12 During the entire decade of the 1990s, in fact, Asad addressed the Syrian public just three times, and most recently in September 1994 (when he opened a session of the People's Assembly). His prior public talk was in March 1992 (when he began his fourth term as president). In addition, he had made very few public appearances (for example before the Workers' Unions in December 1992, or a meeting of religious clerics in February 1996).13 Asad also gradually decreased his exposure to the Arab and foreign media. The last full interview he granted was in July 1998 to French television on the occasion of his visit to France. Before that it was in September 1996 to CNN.14 He did, however, until a few years ago, join in news conferences with foreign leaders such as Husni Mubarak and Bill Clinton.
For almost two decades, Asad had almost completely cut himself off from direct contact with the Syrian population. He stopped completely making visits to army camps, factories, or agricultural projects around the country; he only traveled to the Damascus airport to receive visiting foreign dignitaries, to the Najha military cemetery outside Damascus (to lay a wreath on the grave of the unknown soldier on Army Memorial Day on May 6, and on the anniversary of the October war, October 6), and to his son Basil's grave on the anniversary of his death, January 21. During the last five years Asad's travels abroad had been limited to one or two trips each year (Iran in July and November 1997, France in July 1998, Russia in July 1999, as well as short trips mainly to Egypt, each lasting less than a day).
Asad's disappearance from Syrian public life compelled the governmental newspaper Ath-Thawra to publish an editorial explaining that Asad's absences were not a omen of evil tidings. Rather, it stated, "it is only natural that the president is not always unoccupied or in perfect health, and therefore, the citizens of Syria, who love Asad and are anxious and worried because they do not see him, really have nothing to worry about in this respect."15
The daily routine Asad had adopted during the last years of his life, was in keeping with his suspicious, cautious, and even passive character. Asad's closing himself off fitted in with his worldview, which found Syria a small, weak country surrounded by enemies constantly plotting to attack it.16 It was hardly surprising that Asad (and with him the entire Syrian state) developed a bunker mentality and largely refused to leave that bunker. It is from this bunker that Syria, under Asad's leadership, continues waging a war of survival, which has not been a reality for some time, and perhaps never was, except in Asad's imagination.17
The failed attempt on his life in June 1980 (and the resultant ear injury)18 may partially have explained why Asad had closed himself off; the change in his work habits seems to have followed on the severe heart attack he suffered in November 1983. Asad's self-imposed isolation, and even his withdrawal into himself, was exacerbated by the death in January 1994 of his eldest son Basil. Then there was the plain problem of his advancing age.19
During his last year of life, Asad's physical health deteriorated, as did even more his mental health. The Israeli press has quoted a Central Intelligence Agency report according to which Asad "was suffering from dementia and that he did not have long to live."20 His appearance had also changed, and according to some of the descriptions, he looked like a "walking cadaver."21 Statesmen who met Asad in the last few years noted a dramatic deterioration in his ability to function. Especially toward the end, Asad was no longer able to hold lengthy meetings; he found it difficult to remember details and sometimes withdrew into himself, losing contact with the person with whom he was meeting. Several deputies in the Syrian parliament, fortunate enough to shake Asad's hand immediately after he was sworn in for a new term of office in March 1999, discovered to their amazement that the president found it difficult to recognize some of them or address them by name.22
Foreign leaders started making decisions in part on the expectation of Asad's demise. Thus, a senior Israeli official stated in early 2000 that Israel must be quick about reaching an agreement with Damascus because "Asad will not be with us for very much longer, and in effect the window of opportunity to reach a peace agreement with him while he is still relatively able to reach this agreement and recruit the necessary support for it in Syria will be open for only a few months."23 Against this background it can be understood why, following the failure of the Geneva conference in March 2000, Ehud Barak came to the conclusion that "We will have to wait for the next generation to come in Syria in order to achieve peace between Israel and Syria."24 Interestingly enough, following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, some Arab newspapers argued that Barak made the decision to pull the IDF forces from Lebanon after he learned from Israeli intelligence reports that Asad's days were numbered. Indeed, the death of Asad ensured quiet along the Israeli-Lebanese border for the time being since the Syrian regime under Bashshar is focusing all of its attention and energy on establishing him in power.25
It was clear that Asad's ability to deal with the problems that Syria was facing became more and more limited, and in view of the nature of the Syrian political system, there was no surprise that there was no one else who was capable of taking over decision-making during the last days of the late leader when for all practical matters he was not there any more.
Assuring Bashshar's Succession
Asad appeared interested during his last few years in very few issues; one of them was ensuring his son Bashshar's succession. Toward this end, Asad took a series of steps to promote his son's chances.
First, he ousted the three other potential candidates from Syrian political life, starting with his brother Rif‘at, who was dismissed from his position as vice president in February 1998,26 while Rif‘at's close associates were forcefully attacked in October 1999.27 This made it unmistakably clear that Asad was ready to do everything to prevent his brother from interfering with Bashshar's road to the presidency. Rif'at did not, however give up, but went into exile in Europe, and from there is trying to build up his power and influence, mainly by means of the media empire he runs out of London, including the Arab News Network (ANN) television satellite service and the weekly magazine, Ash-Sha`b al-'Arabi. This media empire did help Rif`at to cast doubts on the legitimacy of Bashshar's candidacy as president following Asad's death.28 Chief of the General Staff Hikmat Shihabi was pensioned off in July 1998 after having served in this post for twenty-four years.29 Vice President `Abd al-Halim Khaddam was stripped of most of his authority in the sphere of Syrian foreign relations, mainly the Lebanese and Iranian portfolios.30 Shihabi and Khaddam had been thought of as possible compromise candidates to succeed Asad. (Both of them are Sunnis, whereas most of the senior Syrian army officers in whose hands lies the fate of the Syrian presidency, are 'Alawis).
Second, Asad ousted the old guard in the army and security apparatuses whose loyalty to Bashshar is in doubt but who had filled key positions from the time Asad rose to power and who had ensured the survival of his regime. In June 1999, Commander of the Air Force Muhammad al-Khuli was pensioned off, along with the deputy head of the general security directorate, Muhammad Nassif Khayr Bek.31 February 2000 saw `Ali Duba, the head of the military security department, retired.32 A host of veteran officers, mainly at the division commander level, were dismissed and replaced by relatively young men, considered close to Bashshar.33 Bashshar was undoubtedly exploiting the vacuum created by his father's absence to take over his authority in spheres of activity once reserved for Asad.
Third, Asad's decision to convene the Ba‘th congress on June 17, 2000, after a break of fifteen years and the appointment of Bashshar as a member of the regional command of the Ba‘th party (the highest political body in Syria) indicates that Asad had reached the conclusion he should accelerate the process of cultivating Bashshar as his successor.
Still, it is noteworthy that Asad, despite his own infirmities, did not retire in favor of Bashshar. Such a move would have been a blessing for his son, easing the way for him and possibly averting a bloody struggle over the succession. So long as Asad was live and competent, no one was likely to challenge his transfer of power. But the father was in no hurry to retire, perhaps worried that Bashshar was not ready yet to become president; in Lebanon, according to media reports, Bashshar is called the "child,"34 while in the West, observers tend to call him a "student."35 The elder Asad himself appeared not convinced yet of the ripeness of Bashshar to take the power. Since the old guard had been close to Asad for forty to fifty years, long before Bashshar was born, they were also close to him ideologically and as far as their world-view was concerned. He, therefore, tended to listen to them. Asad's reasons for holding on also might have been partly psychological – he hesitated to transfer power because he wanted to stay at the center of the political scene. Shimon Peres once remarked that leaders of Asad's (and his own) age tend to avoid thinking about their political, not to say, biological end, and thus, tend to ignore the issue of the succession.36 Another long-time Asad watcher made the point that Asad had become during the last few years a stubborn, aged, and old leader, and thus, tended to hold on strongly to everything that he had.37
Hafiz al-Asad's policy of doing nothing for a prolonged period, his passive nature, and the regime's autocratic structure meant that Syria reached an impasse in the final decade of his rule. To make matters worse, this decline took place at a time when the regime found itself faced with many urgent issues: succession, socioeconomic crisis, globalization, ferment in Lebanon, and relations with Israel. In a word, Asad left his son a country in total decline.
Speaking practically, Bashshar first needs to secure of the support of the Asad family, then the ‘Alawi community, and finally the military and the security forces. Unfortunately for him, Bashshar does not enjoy total support even within his immediate family. His father's brothers, Rif`at and Jamil, expressed their reservations about his candidacy more than once in the past; the former has already contested his nephew's succession from afar. Nor are they alone; the old guard, which has been gradually removed from positions of power and influence, still maintains considerable power. Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Damascus, has warned that figures such as ‘Ali Duba and Muhammad al-Khuli, men whose vigor is far from diminished and who are smarting from their abrupt dismissals, are lying in ambush.38
The formation of a new Syrian government in March 2000 provides insight into Bashshar's limitations. Portrayed as a clear example of his determination to tread a new path of reform and modernization, mainly in economic spheres, it also represented Bashshar al-Asad's personnel choices.39 If that is the case, the new government raises serious questions regarding Bashshar's ability to influence matters and the direction in which Syria is really moving. Far from a manifestation of the new spirit coursing through Syria today, the government expresses the existing state of decay and stagnation.
Despite the words of praise heaped upon the new prime minister, Mustafa Miru, as an unblemished individual whose appointment marks the beginning of a new era in Syrian politics, the man is nothing more than a second-rate party hack. Miru, 59, was born in a village north of Damascus and represents the Sunni rural sector which is a junior partner in the Asad coalition. He is related to other leaders: his wife is the sister of `Abdullah al-Ahmar, assistant secretary general of the National Command of the Ba'th Party. Miru holds a doctorate from the University of Moscow in Arabic language and literature. He has been a member of the Ba‘th Party since 1966, and prior to his appointment as prime minister, he had served as a governor for twenty years (governor of the Dar`a district 1980-86, of the Al-Hasaka district 1986-93 and, of the Aleppo district 1993-2000). Bashshar's man who is supposedly to revolutionize Syrian life is really a rank-and-file politician from the back benches of the Ba‘th Party whose ability to lead his government along a new path is somewhat doubtful.40
Looking at the other ministers in this new government, while the media underscored the fact that twenty-two out of the thirty-four ministers in the new cabinet were fresh faces,41 two facts need emphasis: First, all the ministers came from the upper or the middle echelons of the Ba‘th Party or the governmental bureaucracy; like Miru, they represent the old, discredited policies. Second, the holders of the key portfolios, especially those dealing with economic affairs, remained unchanged. In particular, the ministers of economy and finance, Muhammad al-`Imadi and Muhammad Khalid al-Mahayani, respectively, retained their portfolios in the new government despite a broad consensus inside and outside Syria that these men failed at their tasks and represent an old, weary and aging generation that finds it difficult to understand new global economic realities.42
The decision made by the Syrian authorities, and probably by Bashshar himself, to take former prime minister Mahmud az-Zu`bi to court on charges of corruption, a move that led to Zu`bi's alleged suicide, was part of Bashshar's efforts to project the image of a clean leader. At the same time, Zu`bi was perceived as weak, suggesting that Bashshar may not have felt strong enough to directly confront the old guard and so preferred to deal only with Zu`bi.43
Why this gray tinge and things remaining the same? It may reflect Bashshar's inability to force his will on the party establishment and the government bureaucracy. The latter are afraid of the changes he wants to make, changes which mean a deviation from the old ideological line, as well as the loss of power. And Hafiz al-Asad possibly did not give full backing to his son, not wanting to upset the old guard and himself apprehensive of too dramatic a change. Another possibility, of course, is that the elder Asad no longer had the strength for a painful and wearying debate with people who have been his colleagues in the ruling elite for so many years. Whatever the reasons, it bears witness to the limpness that characterizes the manner in which Syrian affairs have been managed for many years, marking time, and also to Bashshar's vulnerability.44
Like every citizen of Syria, Bashshar must be aware that Syria desperately needs change. After thirty years under his father, the country reached an impasse; the social and political structure had lost any relevance to the reality in the streets. The system of social services -education, health etc. is collapsing etc. and its economy is on the verge of collapse. After stabilizing his rule, will Bashshar succeed in leading the people onto a new path, a path of change and openness? It appears—and Bashshar has expressed himself on this subject over the past few months—that he will seek change combined with continuity,realizing that too dramatic a change in a country under iron-fisted rule for so long could cause the whole structure to collapse.45
What does the future hold in store for Syria? Everything depends on Bashshar al-Asad, his personality, and the leadership qualities he demonstrates. Can he take his father's place? Formally speaking, yes, and he did so very easily. In an accelerated process following the death of Asad - indeed, on the very day he died - the Syrian parliament changed the Syrian constitution to enable Bashshar (34 years old) to become president (the constitution had required 40 years). A week later, the Ba'th party appointed Bashshar its general secretary and its candidate for the presidency. Bashshar's candidacy was then approved by the parliament and the electorate in a well-organized and state-controlled referendum.46 Thus did Bashshar became the president of Syria, as smoothly as though his father were still alive.
This, however, left the main question unanswered: could Bashshar succeed in turning formal power into real power? This depends on him. Bashshar has been recognized as a Western-educated and open-minded young man, skilled as an Internet surfer,47 aware of the world and of Syria's need to join it after decades behind the wall of isolation erected by his father. Trouble is, these are not the qualities which Bashshar most needs as he aspires to take over the Syrian regime. He will survive in it only if he shows determination, leadership capabilities, charisma, and the necessary degree of brutality towards his enemies at home. Does he have the "killer instinct"? Only time will tell; but everything depends on it. Eyal Zisser, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University, is the author of several books on Syrian history and politics.
1 Al-Hayat (London), June 23, 1999.
2 Ma`ariv, Mar. 30, 2000.
3 "Al-Mufawadat al-Suriyya-al-'Israi'liyya-Khafayya waMutatallabat," As-Safir ( Beirut), Feb. 1, 2000.
4 Interview with Muhammad Zuhayr Diyab, Al-Jazira Television (Duha, Qatar), Feb. 18, 2000.
5 Patrick Seale, "Syria Position in the Peace Process," paper presented at a conference on "The Peace Process n the Middle East," Haifa University, Mar. 13-15, 2000; Al-Watan (Duha), Apr. 6, 2000.
6 Steven Plaut, "The Collapsing Syrian Economy," Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1999, pp. 3-14.
7 Reuters, Feb. 25, 2000; Tishrin (Damascus), Apr. 25, 2000.
8 An-Nahar (Beirut), May 24, June 5, 2000; Reuters, May 24, 2000.
9 Interview with Ehud Barak, according to which he had "good reasons" to believe that the Syrians will show some flexibility regarding the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Yedi‘ot Aharonot, Apr. 19, 2000.
10 Tishrin, Dec. 12, 1992.
11 Tishrin, Mar. 12, 1999.
12 Syrian Arab News Agency, Dec. 17, 1998.
13 Tishrin, Dec. 15, 1992; Ath-Thawra (Damascus), Feb. 17, 1996.
14 Radio Damascus, July 15, 1998; Tishrin, Sept. 29, 1996.
15 Ath-Thawra, Jan. 25, 1999.
16 [AU: ref. pls. - See Asad's speech on the Ba`th revolution day of March 8th in 1988,Tishrin, Mar. 9, 1988; Faruq al-Shar` address to the members of athe union of Arab writers in Damascus in the beginning of February 2000, as-Safir, Feb. 13, 2000..
17 Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand, Middle East Fears of Conspiracy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), pp. 171-249.
18 Patrick Seale, Asad of Syria —The Struggle for the Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 1988), pp. pp. 328-329; author's interview with Patrick Seale, London, Sept. 25, 1995.
19 His birth date was long believed to be October 6, 1930, but Patrick Seale has suggested, following a visit to the town of Asad's birth, Qurdaha, that Asad may have been born in the mid-1920s, making him at least five years older than generally supposed. See Patrick Seale, "The Future of Syria," paper presented at the Oxford Middle East Society, Feb. 23, 1999.
20 Ha'aretz, Mar. 6, 1999; The Daily Telegraph, Apr. 30, 2000. This report was denied by Syrian officials and also by American officials, Agence France Presse (AFP) (Paris), May 1, 2000.
21 The Washington Post, June 22, 1999; Israeli television, Channel 1, Mar. 20, 2000; An-Nahar, Mar. 30, 2000.
22 Author's interview with a Syrian academic, New York, Oct. 13, 1999.
23 Interview with Uri Sagie, head of the Israeli delegation to the peace talks with Syria, Israeli television, Channel 2, Apr. 29, 2000.
24 Yedi`ot Aharonot, Mar.30 2000.
25 An-Nahar, June 17, 2000.
26 Syrian Arab News Agency, Feb. 8, 1998.
27 Al-Hayat, Oct. 21-22, 1999; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio, Oct. 23, 1999.
28 ANN Television (London), June 14, 2000.
29 Al-Hayat, July 3, 5, 1998.
30 As-Safir, Jan. 14, 1999.
31 Al-Hayat, June 14, 29, 1999.
32 Reuters, Feb. 6; Al-Quds al-`Arabi (London), Feb. 14, 2000.
33 Eyal Zisser, "Syria," Middle East Contemporary Survey (MECS), vol. XIX (1995), pp. 634-635.
34 Foreign Report, May 9, 2000.
35 The Washington Post, Apr. 27, 2000; BBC Radio, May 11, 2000.
36 Interview with the author by the author, Jerusalem, Apr. 25, 1995.
37 Interview with an American diplomat by the author, Tel Aviv, Mar. 15, 2000.
38 "Voice of Israel," Mar. 6, 2000; Ha‘aretz, Mar. 6, 2000; An-Nahar, Mar. 30, 2000.
39 Al-Hayat, Mar. 8, 2000; Ad-Diyar (Beirut), Mar. 8, 2000; Tishrin, Mar. 14, 2000.
40 Reuters, Mar. 7, 2000; Syrian Television, Mar. 7, 2000; Al-Hayat, Mar. 8, 2000.
41 For example, the replacement of the veteran, unsuccessful minister of information, Muhammad Salman, by ‘Adnan ‘Umran (an ‘Alawi, like his predecessor) or the removal of Najjah al-‘Attar from the Ministry of Culture where she had served since the early 1970s and her replacement by the poetess Muha Qanut.
42 Patrick Seale, "Syria Position in the Peace Process"; Al-Hayat, Mar. 23, 2000; Al-Watan (Duha), Apr. 6, 2000.
43 Al-Hayat, May 11, 13, 2000.
44 Al-Quds al-`Arabi, Mar. 16, 2000; Al-Hayat, Mar. 21, 23, 2000.
45 Al-Wasat (London), Apr. 17, 2000; The Washington Post, Apr. 27, 2000.
46 Radio Damascus, June 10, 11, 17, 25, 2000. See also Eyal Zisser, "Heir Apparent," The New Republic, Nov. 9, 1999; idem., "Clues to the Syrian Puzzle," The Washington Quarterly, Spring 2000, pp. 79-90.
47 The Financial Times, Mar. 17, 2000; The Washington Post, Apr. 27, 2000.