The New Lion of Damascus

Asad Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has recently become the subject of intense international scrutiny. The United Nations probe into the assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik al-Hariri has stepped up its investigation of the Syrian regime in recent weeks, after the former Syrian vice president, in an interview on al-‘Arabiyya television, claimed that President Bashar violently threatened the Lebanese Premier just months before his death in February 2005. The Wall Street Journal also reports that in the fall of 2003 L. Paul Bremer, then serving as Presidential Envoy to Iraq, was told that President Bashar was urging the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to call for a jihad against the occupying forces in Iraq.

This is enough to prompt the question: Is Syria a rogue state under its present administration? And how important are Syria and its new president to the fates of Iraq, Iran, Israel, Lebanon–and the United States? Enter David W. Lesch and his latest book The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria. Based on unprecedented access to President Bashar, his circle, and his family, this book tells Syria’s inside story, providing an essential account of the country and its leader at this critical juncture in middle east history.

In its review of the book, Foreign Affairs acclaims Lesch’s efforts to produce “both a biography and a political and diplomatic history of Syria under the Assads.” The author, the review continues, “diligently presents different possible interpretations of Syria’s actions and policies,” offering “a nuanced and favorable picture of Syria’s president, although less so of the regime over which he presides.”

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