(b. 11 Sept. 1965).
President of Syria 2000– Born in Damascus as the second son of Hafez al-Assad, he studied medicine at Damascus University, specializing in ophthalmology. Following the death of his older brother in a car accident, he was groomed for his father's succession. He joined the military in 1994, rising to the rank of colonel in 1999. Upon his father's death, he moved cautiously to initiate economic and political reform, but he was careful not to offend entrenched political elites. Assad continued to try and exert pressure on Israel to return the Golan heights even after being forced to withdraw troops from Lebanon, by forging a close partnership with Iran and supporting Hezbollah.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).