Will Syria Dump Its Old Friends?

[Telegraph-UK] David Blair - When you lead a poor country with hardly any oil, only 19 million people and a pitifully weak army, you cannot afford to burn your bridges with anybody. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's foreign policy is to reach in all directions at once, play in every game and explore every possible alliance. In a country that calls itself a republic, Assad inherited the presidency from his father, Hafez, who died in 2000. This makes him the world's only example of an absolute monarch, with no throne, ruling a hereditary republic. When it comes to lacking any shred of popular legitimacy, no one can compete with Assad. He cannot even claim the dubious standing that comes from having led a successful coup, as his dad did 38 years ago. The West and Israel both want Syria to shake off Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran. At present, Syria forms the crucial supply route linking Hizbullah with its chief paymaster and arms dealer, Iran. Assad's goodwill also saves Iran from near total diplomatic isolation in the Middle East.

2008-10-30 01:00:00

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