Hafez al-Assad (Arabic: حافظ الأسد ) (October 6, 1930 – June 10, 2000) was president of
Syria from 1970 until his death in 2000.
Assad's rule stabilized and consolidated the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups. It did so at
the price of brutal repression and a police state government.
Following dissolution of the Syrian union with Egypt, the Syrian Baath launched a coup d'etat within the regime in
1964, and eliminated other parties from the government. Assad became Minister of Defense and wielded considerable
influence over government policy. However, there was much tension between the dominant radical wing of the Baath Party,
which promoted an aggressive foreign policy and rapid social reform, and Assad's more pragmatic, military-based faction.
After being discredited by the failure of the Syrian military in the Six Day War
in 1967, which was in large measure the fault of Assad, and embarrassed by the aborted Syrian attempt to take over
Jordan during the Jordanian-Palestinian Black September war, the government faced conflict within its ranks. By the time
President Nureddin al-Atassi and the de facto leader, deputy secretary general of the Baath Party Salah Jadid, realized
the threat and ordered that Assad and Mustapha Tlass be stripped of all party and government power, it was too late.
Assad swiftly launched a bloodless intra-party coup, The Corrective Revolution of 1970. The party was purged, Atassi and
Jadid jailed, and Assad loyalists installed in key posts throughout the government.
The Baath is a party of minorities with a secular platform. Assad belonged to the small Alawi
sect, which had formerly been persecuted in Syria and now became all powerful. In general, Assad's regime was a typical
one-party state. Opponents were jailed, and elections consisted of meaningless one-candidate referenda. Assad put down
Islamist opposition by the Muslim Brotherhood brutally, but also jailed moderate reformists. The Assad family runs Syria
as a profitable business for itself and its cronies. Assad continued the policy of aligning Syria with the USSR, and led
the opposition to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Assad appeared for a time to be about to make peace with Israel in return for the occupied Golan Heights, but no
agreement could be reached, as the Syrian leader insisted on Syrian retention of areas captured by Syria in the 1948 war
The Assad regime took advantage of the Israeli invasion and the chaos of the civil war, which it helped to kindle, to
turn Lebanon into a vassal state. However, Hafez Assad was a skilled statesman and negotiator and seem to know precisely
the limits beyond which it would not be wise to test the patience of the international community.
Upon his death, Assad was replaced by his son, Bashar Assad.
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