Syrian politician, born on October 6, 1930 in Qardaha (Latakia) and died in Damascus on June 10, 2000, President from 1971 until his death.
Coming from a peasant family traditional adept to the alawite sect, a political activism began in his student days, and in 1946 joined the party of the Renaissance Arab Socialist (Baaz). He/She received his instruction in the Homs Military Academy and the school of aviation, in which he/she graduated as a fighter pilot - came to specialize in aerobatics - in 1955 and was promoted to squadron leader four years later.
Between 1958 and 1961, of the Arab United Republic (RAU) between Egypt and Syria, organized in Cairo a military command of the Baath. Unsuccessful RAU in 1961, he/she was expelled from the army, but it could return two years later, when the Baath took power. His career in the military hierarchy was meteoric: in 1964 he/she was promoted to general, the following year was commander of the air force, and after taking part in the coup d ' état on February 23, 1966, against the moderate Baathist Amin al - Hafiz, amounted to Minister of Defense.
Within the Baath, Assad led the wing military and "nationalistic", not as party of the Socialist Revolution and collaborate with the States of the region in the ideal Pan-Arab and the struggle against Israel since 1967. Relations with the head of the State Nureddin al-Atassi, leader of the radical and dominant faction, underwent a sudden deterioration as a result of the failed military intervention in Jordan to support the Palestinians against the Royal Army. On October 16, 1970 Assad, secured the control of the army, forced to resign Atassi, and on November 13 of that year assumed the secretariat general of the Baaz and established a Revolutionary Council, which was set up in the eleventh coup since the country got its independence in 1946.
On February 22, 1971 agreed to the Presidency of the Republic (since that Ahmad al - Khateeb occupied since November of the previous year), and gave the Government Headquarters. A month later, Assad was submitted to referendum and obtained 99.2% of the votes. The framework of institutional legitimation rested on a national front progressive (JWW), created in 1972, and composed of the Baath and other smaller formations (Communist Party, Arab Socialist Union, movement of Socialist Unity, Arab Socialist Party and Democratic Socialist Unionist Party). The JWW invariably won the most absolute in the elections of 1973 (were the first that were held since 1962), 1977, 1986, 1990 and 1994, while allowed independent candidates to occupy a substantial part of the people's Assembly during the last editions. Assad, for his part, was subjected to ritual re-election every seven years, in 1978 (8 February), 1985 (February 10) and 1991 (2 December), which as a single candidate has always won with more than 99% of the votes.
On 12 March 1973, Assad did approve a Constitution referendum that defined the country as a Socialist, democratic and popular, but non-Islamic Republic, a reflection of the character strictly layman of his regime. It also proceeded to reorient the economy from Communist parameters to other mixed, allowing up to our days - with varied luck - the progressive acceptance of the free market.
His personal power was closely associated with the privileges of the alawite minority Shia sect, which was, in fact, a State within the State. Religious rivalries had bloody episodes of accion-represion at the end of the seventies and early eighties, which reached its peak in February 1982, when the army and militias of the Baath destroyed with unprecedented violence (around 30,000 dead) the city of Homs, which had fallen into the power of the Muslim Brotherhood, from Sunni practice.
Main actor in three decades of history in the Middle East, truffled of events, Assad was the paradigm of the Machiavellianism and subtlety in the service of the perpetuation in power. Their constant changes of alliances and political faces with Western variety (friend of terrorists to strategic ally in the war) should be framed in a strategy for adaptation to circumstances and safeguarding the interests of Syria in so volatile region.
At the beginning of the 1970s was interested for a while in a Federation of Arab republics with Egypt and Libya (held numerous summits on the subject with Sadat and Gaddafi), who, like so many other panarabistas projects, did not prosper. The truth is that Assad accused a renewed (the same who, precisely, reproach to Atassi) pro-sovietismo, just when Sadat cut ties with the USSR and Gaddafi professed a visceral anti-communism. Among the several visits that Assad made to Moscow, was especially important the on October 8, 1980, in which signed with Brezhnev a Treaty of friendship and military assistance of twenty years of validity, which confirmed to Syria as the main ally of the Soviet Union in the region and guaranteed him a supply of weapons, vital for the desired "strategic parity" with Israel.
The Alliance with Egypt in the war against Israel (October-November 1973) enabled to recover the level of relations of the RAU times, but Assad not only not regained the Golan Heights lost in 1967; The israeli army reached the outskirts of Damascus, and only withdrew after the signing of a high fire on May 31, 1974 through the mediation of the United States. Assad, who had reestablished relations with this country - broken in 1967 - and received Nixon in a historic meeting, held on 15 June 1974, refused to start negotiations for a peace agreement with Israel-definitive, as I was doing Sadat. The final rupture with this occurred on December 5, 1977 after his trip to Israel last month. Sadat, Assad did not spare this unilateralism, which, in their eyes, weakened dramatically the cause of the global restoration of the occupied territories.
Relations with Jordan's King Hussein also went through various vicissitudes. On July 3, 1971, Damascus joined other Arab progressives and broke relations with Amman, to protest against the repression of the Palestinians, but on September 11, 1973 the reconciliation took place at the Cairo Conference. In 1980, Assad's support for Iran in its war against Iraq placed sirio-jordana hostility to the border war, and on 5 May 1986, with the visit of Hussein to Damascus, relations were re-established permanently.
But it was the long and complex war in the Lebanon that Assad had its international popularity. At first (June 1, 1976) he/she sent his troops to prevent an imminent Christian defeat against the Palestinians and their allies on the Muslim left; However, the reaction of the Arab world to the Egyptian "defection" led him, from February 1978, to turn against its allies, the Christian Falangist, and manage new support in the moderate Christian field. Remiss to address the israeli army when it invaded Lebanon in June 1982, the Syrian army, assisted by local Shiite militia, was launched in 1983 to the destruction of the Fedayeen of the PLO, the organization that hampered the ambition of Assad put the country under its aegis. Signed in 1987 with the left Lebanese and Palestinians of Arafat - peace received who at reconciliatoria visit the 24 May 1988-, and crushed the Christian resistance of general M. Aoun in October 1990, Assad could subscribe on 22 May 1991 with his Lebanese counterpart, E. Harawi, a Treaty of brotherhood and cooperation thatin fact, became a protectorate of Damascus to the newly pacified country.
The triumph in Lebanon coincided with the overcoming of its international isolation. To the traditional friendship with Libya and Iran joined the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Morocco (January 9, 1989) and Egypt (27 December 1989) - cross-visits with H. Mubarak, first from 1977, in 1990, more normalization with Saudi Arabia. Nowadays Damascus, Cairo and Riyadh closely collaborate in the maintenance of the status quo of the Persian Gulf.
The crisis caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 gave Assad a magnificent opportunity to normalise its dealings with the West (United States included then Syria on its list of States sponsors of international terrorism), more urgent if possible by the disappearance of the USSR, and decisively impose themselves on great regional rival, Iraq, with whom diplomatic relations were broken since the 10 October 1980. Syrian troops participated in the force Pan-Arab deployed in Saudi Arabia to protect it from an Iraqi attack, and fought testimonialmente in the January-February 1991 war. Rehabilitation of Assad before West took various moments: the meeting with the President G. Bush in Geneva on November 23, 1990, the release of hostages in Lebanon in 1991, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom (broken in 1986) on 28 November 1990 and, above all, participation in the peace conference for the Middle East that started in Madrid in October 1991. In this section, Assad is showed as the stiffest interlocutor in the area to demand Israel, prior to any settlement, withdrawal from the Golan Heights in accordance with resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the Security Council of the United Nations. This thesis of "territories before peace" could not be broken by numerous missions of the Secretaries of State Americans, nor by the President B. Clinton, who held two meetings with Assad in 1994. In recent times of the israeli Labour Government is insisted on the imminence of a deal, but the continuity of the actions of the group Hezbollah from southern Lebanon - with the consent of Syrian - against Israel, and the collapse of the global peace process as a result of the return of the conservative Likud Government of this country in 1996, they have put an end, sine die, to any expectation.
Man of quiet, shy at times, Assad was an absolute dictator backed by numerous and omnipresent security services. His death came to power his second son, Bashar, as the eldest son, Basel, who had appointed as his successor, died in an automobile accident.
R. Ortiz de Zárate