Assad and the Future of the Middle East

Neumann, Robert G.
December 1983
Foreign Affairs;Winter83/84, Vol. 62 Issue 2, p237
The article discusses the role of Hafez al-Assad, the King of Syria, in the Middle East's political tension involving Israel. The consequences of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 have significantly changed the entire range of power relationships in the Middle East. They have enabled Syria suddenly to emerge from isolation and humiliation and to seize the power switch of Middle Eastern diplomacy. Israel made a fundamental miscalculation in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon and achieved none of its broader goals. Hafez al-Assad evokes mixed reactions in Arab countries outside Syria. The harshness of his regime and the brutality with which he has suppressed dissidents, especially in Hama, arouse resentment and fear. The implacable resolve with which he carries on his feud with his fellow Arabs and fellow Baathists in Iraq is deeply regretted. Nor can one ignore Assad's prime superpower supporter, the Soviet Union. Syria's relationship to the U.S.S.R. is another Middle East complexity that does not easily fit into the clear definitions preferred by Western, and especially by American, observers. The Soviet-Syrian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed in October 1980, calling for cooperation in the military field and mutual consultations on threats to each other's security or violations of peace and security in the whole world.


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