--William L. Waugh, Jr., Georgia State University, Atlanta
Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferationby Raymond Tanter
The end of the Cold War brought new concerns regarding international threats. Attention has now turned toward outlaw nations, notorious for state-sponsored terrorism, drug trafficking, and a desire to acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Political scientist Raymond Tanter discusses U.S. foreign policy and explores the reasons why these countries are perceived as threats.
--Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
“. . . Highly informative.” —The Washington Times
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Personality, Politics, and Policies
IN THE COLD WAR ERA, the "stars" that dominated the world stage came from the superpowers. In the post-Cold War world, players from less powerful states have surfaced onto the international scene. One way to discuss these new celebrities is to organize their "infamy" by key dates that epitomize their rule. Absent the checks and balances of a democratic order and the bureaucracies of a large totalitarian state, rogue regimes are more subject to the politics of personality. In this respect, the policies of the new rulers are more a reflection of the whims of charismatic individuals than the outcome of bargaining among multiple centers of power.
TIMES TO RELIVE
November 4, 1979. Americans held their collective breath as some 3,000 Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Our eyes were glued to television sets, waiting to hear the fate of the seventy Americans held inside against their will. Government officials were sweating. Military minds were turning. The public was not only dazed and confused, but angry as well. Who would dare do this to the United States of America, and how was Washington to respond? Six months later, America got its answer.
Washington launched a secret special-operations rescue mission called Desert One, only to see it fly to a fiery crash, leaving eight soldiers dead. After 444 days, the supreme spiritual and political leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeni, released the hostages to President Ronald Reagan. Americans focused hostility and fear on Khomeni, who appeared on television as the personification of evil. Khomeni and everything associated with him invaded the American conscience. Never again could the United States look toward Iran without thinking of Khomeni and the acts of terrorism he seemed to condone.
August 2, 1990. The self-described "Knight of the Arab Nation," Saddam Hussein, ordered Iraqi troops to invade the small neighboring country of Kuwait. In response, President Bush ordered a huge military deployment of American troops, created a coalition of Western and Arab states, and subsequently authorized air and ground combat operations against Iraq.
Again, Americans watched on television as Scud missiles flew over the western Iraqi desert over Jerusalem en route to Tel Aviv. Coalition aircraft launched waves of strikes against Iraq. We held our collective breath as the Iraqi military took its first prisoners of war. Television viewers watched in horror as U.S. soldiers and Israeli citizens donned gas masks in anticipation of chemical warfare. Pundits reminded us of Saddam's ruthless use of poison gas against the Iranian military, against innocent civilians, and against the Kurds of his own country. Americans quickly forgot that this man was once a distant ally of the United States, and only saw Saddam Hussein as "the Butcher of Baghdad."
February 1982. Saddam is not the only Middle Eastern dictator who tried to annihilate his own citizens. Hafez al-Assad is the calculating, seemingly rational leader of Syria. He is known to be just as ruthless and cruel as his counterpart in Iraq and has frequently shocked the world with violent and bloody displays of cruelty.
Assad ordered an attack on Hama, a city of about 180,000 people: over 10,000 individuals died. The city harbored an organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, that opposed him. After a failed assassination attempt on his life, Assad first retaliated by torturing and executing 600 to 1,000 imprisoned Muslim Brothers. Then, in an effort to extinguish further opposition, he unleashed his military upon Hama.
December 21, 1988. Another day that remains seared into America's collective memory--the day of the Pan Am 103 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland. According to the U.S. State Department, two Libyans planted a bomb set to explode one hour after the commercial flight's departure. After an investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice and Scottish officials uncovered a trail that led to senior Libyan intelligence officers. Evidence also pointed to involvement by the infamous Muammar Qadhafi. As the 1990s close, the two suspects remain at large in Libya. Colonel Qadhafi may be shielding them from the international demands for justice.
Pan Am 103 was neither the first nor the last act of terrorism involving Qadhafi. On October 6, 1981, Egyptian dissenters whom Washington believed were backed by Colonel Qadhafi assassinated Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat. After that incident, Libya and the United States became locked in a spiral of escalation. The mutual hostility reached a height on April 15, 1986, when President Reagan ordered airstrikes on various Libyan sites. One of them was Qadhafi's personal residence on a military base. The attacks killed his infant daughter and wounded two of his sons. The assault was in immediate response to a bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, a place known to be frequented by U.S. service men and women. American analysts traced the Berlin disco bombing to the government of Libya.
Perhaps because of Washington's use of force, Qadhafi cut back his sponsorship of terrorist organizations that assault American citizens. Many Americans, nevertheless, retain a knee-jerk image of a Qadhafi-like character. This archetype would be blamed for acts of terrorism, such as the bombing of Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Despite Qadhafi's trend toward moderate behavior, incidents like Pan Am 103 serve to strengthen stereotypes of Middle Eastern leaders. The image is of an evil, domineering man in a green military suit who masterminds terror targeting the United States. Because of the relative frequency of terrorist incidents that occur in the Middle East, there is a mental picture in American culture that the region is an incubator for terrorists. Witness the wild speculation that Middle Eastern terrorism was responsible for the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the loss in 1996 of TWA 800 off the coast of New York. Militiamen from the Middle West and "Good-Old Boys" from the South were not the images that came to mind when we learned about these explosions. However, there are other regimes outside the Middle East that have become painful thorns in Washington's side. Two cases stem from the Cold War era: Cuba and North Korea.
October 16, 1962. One of the most terrifying moments in American history--the Cuban Missile Crisis. Washington saw a charismatic Fidel Castro at the helm of a regime that tacked against the American-dominated winds in Latin America. A strong proponent of Marxism during the Cold War, Castro looked to Moscow for support and guidance. This challenge to American hegemony was unacceptable to Washington. Cuba is only 90 miles south of Florida. When American spy planes discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev waged a war of coercive diplomacy to achieve their objectives while averting nuclear annihilation. All the while, Castro basked in the limelight afforded by superpower crisis diplomacy.
For Americans growing up at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the memories are almost always the same: because they thought the world might come to an end, people can tell you what they were doing at the height of the crisis. Ever since the 1960s, a generation of Americans has viewed Castro and Cuba as twin threats. The demand for exported sugar and Havana cigars is irrelevant. Cuba is not the only country the United States has confronted over nuclear weapons. As the twentieth century closes, another small country remains as a relic from the Cold War--North Korea. American-North Korean relations have evolved from the days of the Korean War, through a crisis over nuclear weapons development, to crises regarding humanitarian issues.
October 17, 1994. Pyongyang and Washington reached an agreement on the text of a framework document on North Korea's nuclear program. Even though most of the international community had made a movement toward nonproliferation, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea pursued nuclear weapons until Pyongyang and Washington struck a deal in 1994. At issue is whether that accord will be sufficient to steer North Korea away from the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Hence, a prudent assumption is that Pyongyang will continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Global pressures against proliferation are less effective against North Korea because Kim Jong-Il is not as concerned with international censure as other leaders.
As confrontation over nuclear weapons subsided, new crises arose over floods and famine. North Korea has suffered from floods and a devastating rice famine. But Kim Jong-Il has used his country's resources to build a monumental skyscraper. This misallocation of resources suggests that his concern with personal aggrandizement might be at the expense of the people of North Korea. While Pyongyang's long time rival, Seoul, was sending shipments of rice to alleviate the starvation in the North, Kim Jong-Il sent saboteurs to infiltrate the South. He has commented, "No one can figure me out, especially the Americans ... but it is they who are confused. He is correct. When you bite the hand that feeds you, it appears to be inexplicable.
Not since the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s, has the world seen such horrors as the scenes in North Korea during the 1990s. In a rare, and perhaps desperate move, the Stalinist-like North Korean regime allowed Western reporters to document the suffering and starvation that had rocked its population. Floods and famine have wiped out much of this small country's crops, leaving millions of faces hollow and blank. Photographers panned over live bodies that looked like corpses. Pictures of babies with swollen stomachs circulated around the world, tugging at hearts and consciences. Though this image alone was horrifying, the civilized world suspected that Kim Jong-Il hid even more appalling and gruesome scenes.
In fact, this same man used his starving country to strong-arm the United States into negotiations with neighboring countries Japan and South Korea. Kim Jong-Il's regime pointed fingers at Tokyo and Seoul, which were reluctant to give rice, even though they had warehouses full of rotting crops. True, other countries hesitated to come to North Korea's aid. Their unwillingness may be due to North Korea's million-man army, which exercises along the demilitarized zone. Because Pyongyang siphons off humanitarian assistance for the military before rationing it out to the population, the international community struggles with the following dilemma. Should we save the lives of millions of North Koreans at the risk of strengthening the military regime that threatens 37,000 American soldiers and millions of South Koreans? To anticipate the conclusion of Chapter Seven, the regime needs to be contained, but the North Korean population needs to be saved. At issue is how to contain a puzzling leader like Kim Jong-Il and embrace his starving population.
PERSONALITY AND POLITICS
Because the actions of the rogue leaders appear puzzling, there is a need to answer the question, "Why?" With every rogue act, all eyes turn to the leaders of these international troublemakers. In an attempt to answer this question, it is imperative to look to the stars on the stage of the New World Order for their motives, fears, and beliefs.
Rogue Regimes analyzes the luminaries of the post-Cold War era: the Ayatollahs Khomeni and Khameni, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatemi of Iran, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Qadhafi of Libya, Hafez al-Assad of Syria, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Kim Jong-Il of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Personality, politics, and policies form a triangle that describes rogue leaders. These three factors are manifest in an intricate framework of emotions and experiences, a drive for power, and a willingness to use violence to accomplish their goals. Most of these leaders were born around the same time period, and thus they can be considered in the same generation. A pattern of violence is evident in their behavior.
IRAN'S LEADERS: KHOMENI, KHAMENI, RAFSANJANI, AND KHATEMI
Like most of the rogue leaders and their nations, the Ayatollah Khomeni was the heart and soul of postrevolutionary Iran. Before the revolution, Iran was dominated by foreign powers that exploited the resources of the nation. From the coup that toppled Mossadegh to the revolution that ousted the Shah, the period of 1953-1978 was a time of growing resentment and hostility against the United States.
Khomeni had many reasons to be bitter toward the ruling secular elite of Iran and the West. Assassins sent by an absentee landlord supposedly murdered and hence martyred Khomeni's father in the winter of 1903. Some Iranians believe that a baby brings good or bad luck to its family. In the case of the assassination of Khomeni's father, many took this event to be a sign of bad luck, especially because it was a violent death. Consequently, the villagers called Khomeni "bad-qadam" or "ill-omened." His mother then gradually decreased her visits with him until they stopped altogether. Not willing to withstand the harsh treatment from the villagers, the mother abandoned Khomeni, leaving him with his aunt. When both mother and aunt died, their deaths left Khomeni under the care of his brother. Essentially, Khomeni grew up without ever knowing the love of his parents. He had honored the legacy of his father by giving his first-born son the father's name--Mostafa. But Khomeni suspected that agents of the ruler of Iran, Reza Shah, killed Khomeni's son, Mostafa. And because of the strong ties between the Shah and the West, Khomeni's dislike of the United States grew.
During the Eisenhower years, the United States supported Mohammed Reza Shah, whose father's regime Khomeni thought was responsible for Mostafa's death. The Shah's regime lasted until 1978, when Khomeni began his bloody ascent to power. Khomeni had a deep-rooted hatred for the West that he used to fuel his climb to the top. Disgusted with the corruption capitalism had brought to the predominately Islamic Iran, Khomeni vowed to bring death to the "Great Satan."
At the time, Mohammed Reza Shah was under intense attack from Iran's Islamist factions. They criticized him for betraying the teachings of Islam. The Shah, more preoccupied with his international image than the threat of Khomeni and his growing group of Shiite Muslim followers, became increasingly dependent on Washington's advice and support. As increasing numbers of influential Iranians defected to Khomeni's camp, the Shah fled the country. Finally, taking advantage of the power vacuum in Iran after the Shah's flight, Khomeni seized the reins of the country. The overthrow signaled the beginning of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between Tehran and Washington.
Khomeni's eventually monopolized secular and sacred power in Iran. His supporters viewed him as the champion of the poor and the working class. His disdain for the monarchy and the capitalist West brought him strong political support, which was evident in the frequent sight on the nightly news of huge crowds screaming, "Death to the Great Satan!" The Ayatollah's reign, characterized by terrorism and war, was marked by three factors: an intense belief in Islam, a great hatred of the West, and aggressive reaction toward perceived threats.
During his reign, he maintained power through executions, expulsions, and torture. The walls of many buildings in Tehran were painted with pictures and messages of hatred aimed at the West, a visual representation of Khomeni's attitude. From 1978 to 1981, Khomeni dominated Iran's politics and religion. One of the most poignant examples of his monopoly of power is his portrait in the center of Tehran. Years after his death, Khomeni's face still broods over the city, watchfully inspecting the daily activities of his people.
Khomeni's facial demeanor was not the only feared aspect of the man. His actions gave the world good reason to fear him. The danger that Khomeni posed became obvious when Iranian "students" seized the United States embassy in Tehran and held its occupants as hostages. Though the Carter Administration made many attempts to persuade or coerce Khomeni into releasing the hostages, the government of Iran did not free them until President Carter left office.
Why did Khomeni continue to defy the United States in spite of the painful losses that were threatened? Evidence suggests that his tightening grip on power was chafing many disgruntled factions within his regime. As the economic situation in Iran began to deteriorate, two opposing views began to develop inside the country; one argued for continuing the fight against Western imperialism and corruption, but the second felt that Iran needed Western assistance to recover from years of war and internal conflict. During the remainder of the Ayatollah's reign, small voices of opposition began to emerge, and Khomeni felt he had to expend more energy in extinguishing them. Influenced by his traumatic upbringing and tapping into his country's collective hatred for the West, he began to lash out more strenuously. Most of Khomeni's rhetoric was laced with themes of overcoming Western decadence and resisting the Great Satan. He continued to rail against the "evils" of the West, for which he felt both hatred and fear.
Upon the death of Khomeni in 1989, two men assumed his role, the Ayatollah Khameni and President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Although Khomeni would have frowned upon any separation of mosque and state, the sharing of power between the two men hints at such a division. As a result, ideology became less instrumental in governance under them than it was under a single charismatic ruler.
Ayatollah Khomeni's religious successor, Khameni, was a power beyond the mosque precisely because he was from the mosque. Yet, he lacked the one dominating characteristic of Khomeni--charisma. While Khomeni was worshiped and feared, politicians dared to maneuver around Khameni. Such coalition-building would have been unthinkable under Ayatollah Khomeni. Perhaps it should also be noted that not much has been said about Khameni as an individual. Writing about Ayatollah Khomeni was a tribute to him as a person. The fact that much less was written about Khameni is indicative of his status as one among many ayatollahs.
Toning down Khomeni's anti-Western rhetoric, President Rafsanjani appeared to be something of a moderate. Under him, Iran's focus was largely a secular one. He made efforts to distance himself from both the radical politics of the Ayatollah Khomeni and those who sought to reintroduce Khomeni's policies. His regime was a liberal one by Iranian standards. He paid attention to economic development and private property, calming ethnic minorities, and rebuilding Iran after years of bitter warfare. Under Rafsanjani, Iran legalized foreign loans, merged the religious Revolutionary Guards into the army, welcomed foreign investment in Iran's oil reserves, and moved to privatize industries that had been nationalized after the revolution in 1979.
Within Iran, there was opposition to Rafsanjani's reforms. Some opposed him because they felt he betrayed the egalitarian nature of Islam. In addition, the failure of his economic plans to come to fruition lent support to his hard-line opponents. Both the mullahs and the bazaari merchant class opposed his reforms, and they formed a powerful coalition. Indeed, opposition culminated in an assassination attempt on February 1, 1994. By placing secular goals ahead of religious objectives Rafsanjani exposed himself to criticism from the "Islamists."
It is inaccurate, however, to view Rafsanjani as a true liberal by Western standards simply on the basis of his economic reforms. Though not as adamant about ridding the world of the Great Satan, he nevertheless contributed his share to the tension between Tehran and Washington. Under the rule of Rafsanjani and the influence of Khameni, Iran still supported terrorist groups. Many terrorist suspects had been trained in an Iranian camp that Rafsanjani created. His Iran supported the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires as well as the assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shapur Bakhtiar in Paris that same year. But many Iranians saw Rafsanjani as sacrificing the revolution in favor of the state. He, unlike Khomeni and Khameni, was more preoccupied with the economic rejuvenation of Iran.
In the May 1997 elections, Mohammed Khatemi won the Iranian presidency with about 70 percent of the vote. He defeated Natiq Nouri, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, which has a majority of mullahs as deputies. Nouri was the handpicked successor of the mullahs, like Khameni. Although Khatemi is also a mullah, his colleagues did not favor him. But Khatemi may prove even more pragmatic than Rafsanjani (another mullah) and thus continue to stress economic growth.
Though the most popular description of Khatemi is "pragmatic," this portrayal ignores the social influences that hinder him. As of the late 1990s, Iran had been in dire economic straits for more than fifteen years. Nevertheless, the country's economic need was overshadowed by its strict adherence to Islam. There is a pull between economic growth, which calls for Western technology, and religious "Islamism." This gap could spell disaster for Khatemi. His Iran is one with which Europe, if not America, can strike deals. Yet even as the idea of globalization becomes more enticing to the Iranian population, Khameni, Rafsanjani and Nouri, remain ready to pounce on any misstep Khatemi makes. This intricate web of personalities, politics, and policies may make Tehran amenable to striking a grand bargain with Washington.
IRAQ'S SADDAM HUSSEIN: THE GODFATHER
While there is bargaining and collective leadership in Iran, Iraq is under the firm hand of Saddam Hussein. In this respect, it is no surprise to learn that his favorite movie is The Godfather. What is astonishing in this choice is the many similarities between Saddam and the protagonist of the movie, Don Vito Corleone. Both men grew up without a father in a time of turbulence. Both sought respect and power, and they committed murder when necessary. They also share a sense of paranoia. But where Vito Corleone trusted a few in the extended Mafia family, Saddam only trusts those in his immediate family.
Circumstantial evidence of Saddam's paranoia comes from the wiretaps that have resulted in the execution of many Iraqi citizens. Some of these executions have stemmed from the whispered rumors about one of Saddam's family members. For example, Saddam married his second wife, Samara Shahbandar, after her first husband stepped aside so that Saddam could court her. For giving up his wife, the erstwhile husband not only saved his own life, but he also received a promotion! After the wedding, a member of the Shahbandar clan confided to his wife in the privacy of their bedroom that Samara was not a legitimate member of the family. Little did he know that Saddam had bugged their bedroom. Both the husband and the wife were given life sentences in prison.
Another incident occurred when one of Saddam's generals insulted his mother, Subha. General Omar al-Hazzah made the fatal mistake of bragging about a love affair between himself and Subha. Like the Shahbandar clan member, Hazzah had no idea that Saddam had bugged his confidant's room. When Saddam heard this conversation, he first wept and then became enraged. He then ordered the execution of Hazzah and his son.
Again, we see a connection between Saddam's life and The Godfather. In the movie, family honor was something that no one could demean. If anybody dared to offend the Corleone family, death was inevitable. Think of Saddam as the Don of the Hussein family. Anyone who dares insult the family name, can be assured of an early end.
In his childhood, Saddam developed a sense of suspicion. He brought this distrust into the political arena. This paranoia and his drive for power became evident when Saddam overthrew President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr on July 16, 1979. The overthrow of a regime was not enough to satisfy Saddam. He used violence to attain power, and he used violence to maintain power.
One explanation for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is Saddam's paranoid personality. During the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, he adopted the name "Knight of the Arab Nation" for defending Arab interests. After the war, Iraq was physically ravaged and financially devastated. Saddam was suspicious of the other Arab leaders. Kuwait contributed to Saddam's feeling of betrayal and Iraq's mounting economic difficulty. He felt betrayed because Kuwait refused to forgive Baghdad's debts that Iraq incurred in the Iran-Iraq war. Kuwait also deliberately exceeded the oil production quota of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Accordingly, Saddam felt justified in teaching Kuwait, and the world, a lesson on August 2, 1990.
The bottom line to this explanation is that Saddam's paranoid personality drives him to seek absolute power. This motivation constrains the type of policies that Iraq pursues. While multiple power centers in Iran created room for bargaining and thus moderation, a monopoly of power in Iraq limits bargaining space and promotes extremism. Another Middle Eastern nation, Libya, is more like Iraq than Iran. Ruled by Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, Libya is a virtual unitary actor in the style of Saddam's Iraq.
LIBYA'S QADHAFI: A ROGUE ELEPHANT
Within the global village, the Islamic world, and the Arab nation, Qadhafi is like a rogue elephant. He wanders away from the mainstream norms of the herds to which he belongs. At issue is whether Qadhafi's actions are cool and calculated, fearful and desperate, or reasonable and reckless. His tendency to combine reason and recklessness goes back to his early childhood.
Qadhafi was born in 1942 to a nomadic Berber tribe in Italian-occupied Libya. Like Khomeni, Qadhafi's hatred for Western imperialism began at an early age. His grandfather had been brutally murdered by an Italian colonist in 1911, just as agents of an absentee landlord murdered Khomeni's father. Following the Second World War, the British victors took over Libya from the defeated Italians. One imperial ruler replaced another in the eyes of the Libyans who opposed foreign domination. Libyan tribes continued to resent imperial occupation and were finally granted a reprieve by the international community in 1947, when the UN General Assembly approved Libyan independence. The measure became effective in 1951. Nevertheless, the colonial powers still determined the course of events in Libya for some time. It was not until 1956 that the powers lifted the yoke of foreign occupation, and Libya became autonomous.
During those years of foreign control, Qadhafi became an adult. At the age of sixteen, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser's pan-Arabism greatly influenced him. Young Qadhafi started a revolutionary cell that aspired to take over Libya. By the age of twenty-seven, he and his group of revolutionaries successfully overthrew the regime and took control of every government office and media outlet.
Qadhafi's speeches exhibit a belief that violence is an effective tool for achieving his goals. One interpretation of Qadhafi's anti-American statements is that, "There will be blood in American streets." In pursuit of his goals, Qadhafi protects those accused of international terrorism, such as the suspects linked to the Lockerbie bombing. The international community has demanded that Tripoli deliver the suspects for a trial, yet Qadhafi refuses to release them to the criminal justice system in London and Washington. Failure to do so has increasingly isolated him not only from the international community but from most of the Arab world as well.
It is extremely difficult to understand Qadhafi's continued sponsorship of international terrorism. From a rational choice perspective, the balance of expected benefits and punishments would argue against the sponsorship of terror. But by attributing a degree of irrationality to his actions, we also lessen Qadhafi's responsibilities over such actions.
One act of retaliation by the United States was the April 15, 1986, air raid on Qadhafi's military base, in which he and his family suffered intense emotional and physical trauma. As stated earlier, he lost a daughter and two sons in the attack. Since the airstrike, Qadhafi has constantly moved, rarely sleeping in the same place for two consecutive nights.
Qadhafi may be like a rogue elephant, but he is not demented. Another member of the rogue gallery is Hafez al-Assad. Like Qadhafi, he too is not deranged. And unlike Qadhafi, Assad seems closer to the mainstream of the global village and the Arab Nation. But in fact, this facade is just that--a mask that fronts the true identity of a brutal dictator.
SYRIA'S ASSAD: THE HAMA RULES
Like Qadhafi and Saddam, Assad uses rough tactics to bully his opponents, international and domestic. The "Hama rules" refer to the brutal slaying of 10,000 residents of the Syrian city of Hama. This massacre gave Assad the reputation of having a ruthless, calculating mind. Indeed, an anecdote about him reflects this rancor. "After a national 'election' in Syria, an aide comes to President Assad and says, `Mr. President, you won the election with 99.7 percent majority. That means only three-tenths of 1 percent of the people did not vote for you. What more could you ask for?' Assad replies, 'Their names.'"
If President Hafez al-Assad did seek those who would defy him, what would he do? Perhaps the Hama massacre can provide a possible scenario. Survivors of Assad's wrath reported horrific torture techniques involving the removal of fingernails and heated probes.
But what makes Assad tick? Who is he? On the outside, he looks like a distinguished gentleman. With silver hair and a nice smile, he could be anybody's grandfather, or a high school teacher. But it is widely believed that Assad is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in order to keep his political position.
Like Qadhafi, Assad came from a stable family. His family was warm, large, and a respectable pillar of the community. Assad's father, Ali Sulayman, was one of the very few literate Syrians in the early 1900s, and was highly respected for it. His emphasis on education carried over to his sons. Liberal French teachers educated Assad because France controlled Syria after the First World War. But this liberal education went for naught in transmitting humanitarian values.
At the age of nine, Assad was sent to a school in Latakia, where he lived with his older sister. Tragically, his sister and her husband were forced to move, abandoning Assad in a city that hated him because of his Alawite faith. Though he was homesick, alone, in a place where people despised him, Assad refused to give up and excelled in school. His tough-mindedness may come from the disciplined training he received from his father and grandfather. His grandfather built a family reputation of being physically domineering and morally steadfast. A
Meet the Author
Raymond Tantder is professor of political science and a research associate of the Middle East Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
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