Summary of Inheriting Syria

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Despite somewhat dry writing and rapidly evolving events on the ground, this is a compelling book for anyone interested in the Middle East. Former U.S. State Department and C.I.A. Syria-expert Flynt Leverett covers the history, personalities and strategies of the late dictator, Hafiz Al-Asad, and his son, Bashar, Syria's current ruler. The author explains U.S. diplomatic options and traces the evolution of Syria, an impoverished "rogue" dictatorship long under U.S. sanctions as a state that supports terrorism. He devotes about 30% of his well-researched book to a chronology, appendix and footnotes. He provides extensive support materials to demonstrate why a country with so many internal needs has become such a devoted patron of terrorism, imbued with the purpose of destabilizing Western Democracies' policies and spoiling any regional peace efforts. Leverett also addresses the U.S. State Department's near tolerance of much of Syria's international troublemaking. While he presents clear descriptions, he offers no clear-cut answers - as if there are any - but offers possible scenarios, mostly stalemates, in this drawn-out international chess game. recommends this book as important reading on U.S. foreign policy.

About the Author

Flynt Leverett, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, was senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, senior Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency and a member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. State Department.



The Syrian Paradox

With about 18 million people and no unusual strategic characteristics in terms of size or wealth, Syria should not be particularly important to the United States. However, despite Syria's apparent weaknesses, such as serious ethnic and sectarian rivalries among its largely Arab population, this country has managed to forge a relatively stable political front to represent its regional interests, including the support of terrorism.

Under the current president, Bashar Asad, and his father, the late Hafiz al-Asad, who ruled from 1970 to 2000, Syria has repeatedly challenged U.S. Middle East policies, asserted its own interests and deterred any efforts toward regional stability. To position itself as a regional player, Syria works strenuously to derail any pro-American efforts or any peace plans under which neighboring countries would accept Israel's right to exist. Syria thus insures that it does not find itself surrounded by countries it considers antagonistic to its interests.

The international community also is concerned about Syria, particularly since it possesses chemical weapons. In fact, it has the region's most advanced and biggest chemical...

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