Just who is this seemingly composed, nattily dressed,
English-speaking dictator who has been charged with killing more
than 1400 of his own people with chemical weapons on August 21?
Among the dead are over 400 children.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, 47, has denied committing this
heinous act of terror, blaming it instead on rebel groups in his
told Charlie Rose
of CBS in an interview that took place in Damascus and aired
Monday, "We are against any WMD, any weapons of mass destruction
whether chemical or nuclear." He also said that any retaliatory US
strikes against his government would only help the al-Qaeda
branches in his country: "It's going to be direct support," he said
in the interview.
Assad also warned Washington that if there is military retaliation,
"You're going to pay the price if you're not wise.
There are going to be repercussions
Even as a possible diplomatic breakthrough emerges, it's clear that
few will ever understand the man who two years ago cracked down on
his political opponents, killing some 10,000 Syrians. But in an
effort to at least get closer to some of the facts of his life,
here's a biographical roundup.
- This Wednesday, September 11, is his 48th birthday. He was
born in Damascus, and is one of four children.
- He has served as president of Syria since 2000, handpicked by
his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ran the country for 30 years
after rising through the ranks to seize control of the Syrian
branch of the Ba'ath Party. His last name in Arabic means "the
- Bashar al-Assad was educated at the Arab-French al-Hurriya
School in Damascus. After high school, he studied medicine at
Damascus University and later worked as an army doctor.
- He began his post-graduate work in ophthalmology in the UK,
at the Western Eye Hospital, part of the St. Mary's group of
teaching hospitals in London.
- When his older brother Bassel -- who had been the heir
apparent -- was killed in a car crash, Bashar was immediately
recalled to Damascus, his education abruptly shortened. His
father then began grooming him for the role of future
- Assad quietly but steadfastly amassed a fortune of over $1
billion while "serving in public office."
- He met his wife, Asma, a Briton of Syrian descent, while
studying in Britain. She grew up in London and worked as an
investment banker at
) in New York. They were married in 2000.
- A country of some 22 million people, Syria has been wracked
by a violent civil war that began in early 2011 and has so far
killed over 100,000 people; it's also created some two million
refugees, half of them children. Peaceful protests presumably
inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia rose up to
challenge the country's
, but the government responded by
openly killing activists
and terrorizing their families. Armed civilians then organized
into rebel groups.
- Assad is said to have learned from his father: Back in the
early 1980s, then-dictator Hafez al-Assad, in responding to a
Muslim Brotherhood-led uprising, killed thousands of
- Russia is Syria's most vital ally: The country regularly
supplies Syria with weapons. Iran is another key ally.
- Writing in the
New York Times
, Bill Carter and Amy Chozick summed up the appeal of Syria's
"glam" first couple by
quoting Andrew Tabler
, an expert on Syria with the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy: "He speaks English, and his wife is hot."
Editor's Note: This article by Maureen Mackey originally
- To ensure their media image was properly buffed up, the
Assads hired American-based PR firms and consultants. Eventually,
magazine called Mrs. Assad one of the best-dressed women in world
politics, and in March 2011, a 3,200-word profile in
entitled "A Rose in the Desert" called her "the freshest and most
magnetic of first ladies."
For more from The Fiscal Times:
Syria Strike: Big Budget, Big Risk, Small
Why Bombing Syria Won't Spike Gas Prices
President Obama's Three Bad Choices in Syria
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