Syria: Dramatic Initiatives

Syria, under Bashar al-Asad, has embarked on a profound transformation. It is too early to say how far it will go, but the young President’s will to reform, to open up – to clean up – almost every aspect of life is now abundantly clear. His ambition is to create a modern state and society. But the backlog is heavy and vested interests well-entrenched. It is not easy to change the mentality and ingrained habits of a whole nation. He cannot work miracles, but he has made a promising start.

The World Today
7 minute READ

Patrick Seale

Writer and political consultant

Bashar al-Assad’s grooming for power started immediately after his brother’s death in 1994. He was then twenty-eight. As a medical doctor, who had specialised in opthalmology in England for a couple of years, he did not seem the ideal choice. But, over the next six and half years, he was put through a crash course in government – two years in the armed services and then four and half at his father’s knee, learning the politics of Syria, the region and the wider world.

He appears to have learned quickly. He is well-educated, thoughtful, discrete, personable, with gentlemanly manners, liberal instincts, scientific interests, and a more than amateurish knowledge of information technology. He also has considerable steel in his character. In the last two years of his life, President Hafiz al-Asad suffered from severe ill-health.

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