When Bashar al-Assad became president of Syria upon his father's death in 2000, many people had high hopes for this young man who gave up his passion for ophthalmology to lead his country. Many expected al-Assad to embark on a series of reforms and lead Syria to a more progressive future.
A decade later and the oppressive and powerful Syrian security-military apparatus reacted with increasing brutality to the Syrian uprisings that were part of the region-wide Arab Spring. Almost two years later the country remains in the grip of a devastating civil war.
What went wrong in Syria, the country that once held the highest hopes of progression and reform in the region? Author David W. Lesch enjoyed exclusive access to Assad as a leading Middle East scholar and consultant between 2004 and 2009, and in Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, Lesch goes into detail about the rise and fall of the house of Assad.
Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad is quite fascinating, in turns hopeful and discouraging. It begins with a discussion of al-Assad's first years in office, the Damascus Spring, and the increasing international pressure following 9/11 and the assassination of former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri.
With its secularism and the overwhelmingly positive perceptions of Syrians of Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma, many thought that Syria would be immune to the effects of the Arab Spring. The next portion of the book discusses why many in the Syrian government, military and Assad's inner circle, thought that Syria was different, including Assad himself. This is followed by a breakdown of precisely why Syria was no different to the rest of the countries in the region and the reasons behind the escalating protests.