For those who know Syria and its history under both Hafez and Baschar al-Assad, it is interesting to note the different courses both men chose to rule Syria. These are the times of two Assads.
Here are some observations worth making.
- Hafez, for the most part, played the West as the Russians did using wit to outsmart his opponents. Baschar, for the most part, used threats and terror.
- Hafez balanced his relations with Iran to keep his opponents off his radar. Baschar slept in Khamenei’s bed and changed his bed sheets for him.
- Hafez kept the wealth he pilfered under tight controls with no visible signs to show he was filthy wealthy. Baschar paraded the wealth he inherited under the guise of Privatization.
- Hafez called for “resistance” against Israel while living a life of austerity. Baschar called for “resistance” against Israel while his wife highlighted her expensive tastes on Facebook; thus showing how little she cared about “resistance”.
- Hafez lived as a resistant fighter would. Baschar lived as a Playboy disguised as a resistant fighter.
- Hafez got away with grand assassinations against Lebanese politicians because he had balanced his policies to protect him. Baschar did not get away with similar assassinations because he already had so many enemies.
- Hafez prayed with Sunni Muslims but only killed them when necessary. Baschar prayed with them and killed them at will.
- Hafez got away with the massacre in Hama because he convinced the world, quietly, of the imminent threat of Islamism. Baschar used Islamism to threaten others with and when it was time to explain their threats, the world was not buying it.
- Hafez resorted to absolute violence only as a last resort. Baschar let his sociopath brother Maher and other violent men in his regime run amok.
- Hafez knew how to appease a religious community as much with threats as with gifts. Baschar only resorted to threats and violence.
The Tale of Two Assads
- Hafez distributed wealth almost evenly amongst his supporters be it Alawites or not. Baschar, under pressure from unwise men, started re-distributing wealth by taking from any non-Alawite.
- Hafez had started a WMD program but he always gave the right assurances and guarantees. Baschar expanded on Syria’s WMD program and used it to threaten his enemies with.
- Hafez, after losing two wars to Israel, learned better not to use the Golan Heights to threaten again. Baschar believed, with Iran by his side, he could threaten Israel publicly.
- When Hafez gave his word, friends and foes alike could rely on it. Baschar lied to everyone about his real intentions.
- When Hafez was under pressure to act, he took his time to think through the possibilities. Baschar, like his brother Maher, always acted impulsively.
The Tale of Two Assads
Syria is suffering today the consequences of a foolish man who mishandled the country his father left for him on a silver platter. What is important for Syrians, if this war is to end, is to insure that a system of checks and balances replaces Assad. Given the intentions of certain countries in the region, like Qatar pulling all the strings for the unaccountable-but-to-God Muslim Brotherhood, it is hard to imagine this war will end soon.
We truly believe, barring an accountable system of governance taking control in Damascus, Syrians will be fighting each other for many years to come.