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Hafez Assad

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Hafez Assad

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 against Israel.

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.


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Hafez Assad