Middle East: Gentler hands on the helm?

The death of Syrian President Hafez Al Assad was described as ‘premature’ by the new, somewhat younger and clearly vibrant President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Presumably Putin meant that Assad’s demise came too soon because the painstaking business of negotiating peace between Israel and the Arabs is dangerously incomplete. But he could also have meant that Syria is not yet ready for a gentler hand on the helm. In any case, it will be hard for Assad’s son Bashar, or any other untested youth, to command the stature to deliver both stability at home and a compromise peace with the neighbours.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Rosemary Hollis

Former Director, Olive Tree Israeli-Palestinian Scholarship Programme, City, University of London

In many respects the middle east is crying out for a new brand of leadership, more in tune with the aspirations of youth than the old guard and more at ease with the challenges of globalisation. To the end, Hafez al Assad retained his Arab nationalist worldview. Seemingly he only came round to the idea of making peace with Israel because he realised that attaining ‘strategic parity’ with the Jewish state, his objective for the better part of his thirty-year rule, was no longer realistic. Yet, Arab relations with Israel remained his consuming interest to the finish, except in so far as he had begun to manoeuvre his second son to take over the reins of power in Syria.

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