The Eccentricities of Bashar al-Assad

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Bashar al-Assad is an eccentric character. He is quite different from his father. He belongs to the new generation of Arab rulers: some Arab former rulers grew up in poverty and harsh conditions (in the Gulf region). The new generation of rulers are more pompous and isolated from public opinion, because they grew up in royal (republican or monarchist) palaces.

Bashar is aloof as a leader. He certainly seems condescending toward the public, and even to fellow Arab leaders. There was a famous Arab summit in 2002 when he lectured Arab leaders. They took offense and he seemed to change his rhetorical style at subsequent Arab summits. It has to be said: Bashar is smart and has a very good command of the Arabic language (unusual among present-day Arab rulers). But he comes across as supercilious and arrogant: he speaks with the over-confidence of someone who thinks he is the smartest person in the room, or in the hall, or in the city, or maybe on the planet.

If you evaluate Bashar’s performance, you can’t escape the conclusion that he was less humbled by the uprising than other Arab leaders were. Ben Ali was quite humbled and he started to beg the people to keep him in power. Gaddafi can’t be judged as a rational person and his behavior under pressure was oddly defiant and provocative. Mubarak stayed arrogant but addressed the people – perhaps under pressure from the generals. Bashar only addressed the people a few times. He seems more interested in impressing Western audiences than Syrians. His only interview with Syrian state TV was rather bizarre: he entered the room, answered questions stiffly and that was it. With Barbara Walters, you see that he made an effort to impress or even to charm (not that it succeeded).

But with all that went on in Syria, he remained aloof. His father (a ruthless dictator who only believed in the principle of staying in power – very much like Bashar) was far more skillful in explaining his policies and actions. After the Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976, when the very stability of the regime was at stake, Hafez gave a very famous speech at Damascus University in which he spoke for hours about the causes for the intervention. It was clear that he was speaking to the Syrian people because he was aware that the intervention was costly to his political legitimacy in Syria. Bashar did not make a single speech like that. His public rhetoric remains as if things have not changed in Syria. On today's anniversary of Syrian Army Day, he did not bother to address his country or even the army. Instead, he wrote an article in a magazine to commemorate the occasion.

How does one read his aloofness? It could be one of his eccentricities. But it could also be part of the burden of growing up in a ruler’s court. People like this can’t believe that there are people who don’t love them. They start to believe their own paid for propaganda. Many regime supporters disagreed with me on Twitter when I said this, but I will say it again: I don’t believe that Bashar spoke once to the Syrian people directly. He never appeared to offer respect or to bow down to the Syrian people. Instead, he does not leave room in his rhetoric for complexities. For him, the regime is Syria, and then there are the “terrorists.” He does not make an effort to address those who hate him but who have not carried arms against the regime.

But one can explain his aloofness in another way: it could be because he is no longer running the show. It is possible that the regional-international war is now so intense and vast, that the regional-international supporters of Bashar (Iran, Hezbollah and Russia) have taken over from him. The game may now be bigger than Bashar but he remains responsible for every drop of blood spilled because he remains the official ruler of the country and has not expressed any desire to resign.

Arabs have been burdened with their leaders: they are not chosen freely by the people, and they are not sympathetic figures. At least, Amin al-Hafez who was president of Syria in the 1960s was an amusing and funny character. The people of Syria then were repressed but entertained. The show now is far from entertaining.

Comments

The Arabs will never learn from history....Bashar Assad is to be hailed for his unbending principles!

It really is a complete joke the Saudi,s of all people lecturing any leader in the Arab world on oppression ... Their methods may be mildy more palatable but theyre just as bad as the regime ..

"methods mildy more palatable"? I.e. public beheading and limp amputation, women oppression and armed oppression of non-armed opposition? Not mentioning spreading the most reactionary version of religious fanaticism.

Mildly, really. No wonder than a Zionist and a wife of rightist pro-terrorist Cuban has only such "mild" words against the most oppressive regime in the ME, best ally of USA and Zionists.

I have met Bashar in person Near West Ealing London many times when use to live in London!
He was INTRESTING to meet and talk with on many subjects and very open minded
Far from what author describes him!
I have met Ben Bella also when his Childeren were at school in Acton! and other Gulf
Arabs!
As I live in West London I come across many Arabs from Iraq,Lebanon ,Gullf etc
My conclusion
Lebanese Arabs seem to BELIVE that they are most cultured and sophisticated but I FOUND THEM TO BE CRUDE AND HALLOW I.e. same is reflected by the author
Where as Gulf Arabs to be VERY STUPID AND AROGANT thinking money can buy anything!
Also most ARABS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE GEO-POLITICAL GAME THAT IS BEING PLAYED ON THEM! Which I found Bashar had good GRASPH OF!

"Critique of Saudi and Qatari media
Sultan (who I may soon call comrade--but he is not there yet) offers an excellent critique of Aljazeera's and Al-Arabiyya's coverage of Syria."

Why doesn't As'ad vet the "muman'a" credentials of this author, Al-Qassemi, whose relatives along with the rest of the Emirati rulers, are among the biggest Western stooges in the Arab world, and whose treachery Al-Qassemi never condemned, nor are there are thousands of Emiratis who went to prison in opposition the treachery of their rulers like the thousands in Saudi dungeons, the ones who who As'ad makes takhween of all of them. It is also evident from Al-Qassemi writings that he is influenced by the Emirati-Qatari rivalry and the likes of Dhahi Kharfan.

Keep stewing in your rage at your inevitable defeat, ya Abeed Bashar, the Syrians won' t go to their graves smiling just so the Assadi regime can maintain its reign, "iqtul qateel wamshi bi-janaztu". I offer you my crocodile tears and my insincere condolences, something the Assadi regime specialises in like when Hafez killed Kamal Jumblatt and personally "consoled" Walid, or when Bashar killed Hamza al-Khatib and "consoled" his father and uncle.

The notion that Bashar al-Assad "remains responsible for every drop of blood spilled because he remains the official ruler of the country and has not expressed any desire to resign" is absurd. Why should the President of Syria "resign" because of the violence being waged against the state, its institutions, economy, army and population? Why is the impetus on Bashar to resign, and not, say, for the purported 'rebels' to lay down their arms? It is not Bashar who is solely responsible for the bloodshed, nor is it the state. The idea that he is responsible for the continuing violence simply because he won't "resign" is a ludicrous and illogical statement. Furthermore, why should he "resign"? Because a minority of religious villagers declare that they won't stop their destruction of the Syrian state until he does? Yeah right.

Why did AbuKhalil never mention the 'eccentricities' (or warcrimes) of G.W. Bush, for example? Is it because the 'White Man' is so rational, or simply fear in the face of the enemy?

I met president bashar when he was seventeen for a few days and spent time with him in all fairness he is a very humble person who at that time had great respect for science and knowledge I never met him or saw him after but I totally disagree with you about hoe you described although I follow your writings daily and sometimes hourly I beleive based on my knowledge of president bashar that he is really trying his best but the game as you mentioned is now much much bigger than any Syrian president had to face and therefore it is totally unfair to compare his reaction to that of other presidents for sure staying in power after all this unprecedented international and regional attacks is a testament to his abilities no other president in Syria could have sustained this barrage of financial military and media onslaught

After reading your comment about Bashar,I still thing,it is not sufficient to conmdem him,compare with the other rulers!!

With Arab leaders like the Arabs have, who would blame Assad for talking down to them?

Wouldn't any Arab feel ashamed, for example, when they, in unison, began attacking Hizbullah during the Lebanese attack in 2006?

And wouldn't any Arab worth his salt, describe these Arab leaders, as "Half men" as Asad did?

Next, we shall read an article about the table manners of the Syrian, and how it is related to the rise of Islamism amongst some Syrians!

"And wouldn't any Arab worth his salt, describe these Arab leaders, as "Half men" as Asad did?"

The Arab leaders are "half-men" no doubt, but is Bashar's grandfather also as such when he was a stooge for the French Mandate, praising the "lovely Jews"(Zionists) and blaming the Palestinians for refusing the Zionist plans? How about Hafez al-Assad when he collaborated with the Americans in Gulf War I? How about Iran's poodles like Ja'fari, Maliki, Chalai and Karzai?

Chalabi

Excellent analysis.

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