Last chance for #Syria’s Asad to reform
By David W. Lesch – 04/05/11 02:11 PM ET
To use a baseball metaphor, last week Syrian President Bashar al-Asad stepped up to the plate with the game on the line. He had a chance to hit a home run with his much-anticipated speech to the nation in response to the growing protests against the government. Instead, he grounded out meekly to second base. The question now is whether the game is over or there is still time to mount a comeback.
The expectations were high for the speech. But this is nothing new to Asad. When he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Asad, in 2000, most believed he would be a pro-West reformer because he was a licensed ophthalmologist who studied in London, was a computer nerd and liked the technological toys of the West. Having met with him on a regular basis between 2004 and 2009, I can say with some authority that he is different from his father. On the other hand, one has to remember that he spent all of 18 months in England. For most of his life he was affected and influenced by a Syrian paradigm that included hostility toward and distrust of Israel and the United States. He sees the world ultimately through Syrian eyes.
As such, it was not a surprise that in his speech Asad blamed much of the protests on foreign “conspirators.” Anyone who has spent time in Syria recognizes this paranoia. This… Read more
Lesch is a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Among his many books are The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria; The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History; and The Middle East and the United States: History, Politics and Ideologies.