The current leader of Syria belongs to a small minority (Alawite) and does not represent the majority in Syria. He is a weak leader, not courageous enough (like his father was), and is not decisive enough.
To claim that President Assad is weak because he comes from a minority would require applying the same logic to any leader who is a member of a minority group.
Regardless of the type of political system, a leader’s strength or weakness has rarely been linked to his or her ethnicity or social belonging. In fact, Assad today enjoys large popular support in Syria and in the Arab World.As late as 2009, a public opinion poll conducted by University of Maryland in cooperation with Zogby International Foundation for Polls held in six Arab countries that are considered moderate (as opposed to radical) and Western-friendly (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the most popular Arab leader.
Furthermore, the notion of that Assad belongs to a small Syrian minority and therefore he is weak, does not represent the majority (of religion), and cannot deliver peace to Israel is false as demonstrated by reviewing the long history of Syria. From Saladdin (a Kurd from northern Iraq), to Baibars (a Mamluk Sultan from Egypt), to Sultan Pasha Al Atrach (a Syrian Druze leader), to Ibrahim Hanano (a Kurd), to Fares al Khoury (a Christian), many names of very popular Syrian leaders emerge from various small and large minorities in Syria.
It is clear that Syrians have accepted and loved leaders from many diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in a consistent manner. A Syrian leader’s charisma, legitimacy in representing Syrian aspiration and pride, and accomplishments are the most determining factors of his strength or weaknesses.
In 2005 Dennis Ross wrote in the Washington Quarterly a paper titled “US policy towards a weak Assad”. Here are some excerpts from that paper:
“When Bashar spoke about the situation in Iraq just prior to the war, his comments bordered on the hysterical.”
“Ultimately, a new reality will likely emerge in Syria due to Bashar’s ineffectiveness and his inability to gain the respect that his father had at home and abroad.”
“In fact, one often gets the sense from the Egyptian and Saudi leaders that Bashar simply does not get it.” That was in 2005. Four years later, it became clear Assad was the one who “did get it” after all. The young Syrian leader had the vision, courage, and decisiveness to oppose the Iraq war and to predict that it will be a disaster (and a quagmire for the US) before it even started.
Contrary to the earlier perception of Mr. Ross and many analysts and observers, Mr. Assad today is enjoying a remarkable turnaround: The US sending its top diplomats to Damascus, the EU's offer to sign the Association Agreement it suspended in 2005, and a flourishing alliance with Turkey are among the many signs of Syria’s rebound and the strength of its leadership. If Israel wants to reach a real peace with the Arab world, then it needs to talk to popular and strong leaders who represent the sentiments of a large majority of Arabs.
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