Stimson in the News

Mona Yacoubian is quoted in the New Republic profile of Bashar Al Assad

in Program

Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer

In 1982, not long after his father’s military pulverized a town called Hama, Bashar Al Assad got a jet ski.

was the tail end of one of the bloodiest periods in Syrian history-what
one intellectual called “the hunting time.” In Damascus, a white
Peugeot 504 idled on every other corner with mukhabarat,
or secret police, inside. Corruption and smuggling were ubiquitous; at
least 30 percent of the country’s GDP, and probably much more, came from
the black market. Everyday goods like bananas and paper tissues were
hard to find; jet skis were practically unknown.


When Hafez died in June 2000, a special referendum installed Bashar as
president. He had finally forced out his nemesis, Ali Duba, a few months
earlier and now pushed other members of the old guard into retirement.
On New Year’s Day 2001, Bashar married Asma Al Akhras, an investment
banker from an elite Sunni family who had grown up in London. “There was
almost a sense that he came to power reluctantly,” says Mona Yacoubian,
a former State Department official who lived in Syria during Hafez Al
Assad’s reign and is now a senior adviser for the Middle East program at
the Stimson Center. “He wasn’t Basil, who was the more thuggish,
stronger brother. He had this beautiful wife. They struck this picture
of what people hoped Syria would become.”

To read the full article, click here.


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