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Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East Hardcover – 1988

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Hardcover, 1988
£157.24 £16.49
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris; First Edition edition (1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1850430616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1850430612
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,790,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This is a book in the finest tradition of investigative scholarship. The research is awesome. . . . Seale's great strength is his ability to explain the confusing kaleidoscopic nature of Middle Eastern diplomacy. He understands the game being played and also knows the players. . . . [An] impressive book."--"Los Angeles Times Book Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
Around the turn of the century, an itinerant Turkish wrestler came one day to a village in the mountains of north-west Syria and, in a voice which rang round the hamlet, offered to take on all comers. Read the first page
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Oct. 1998
Format: Paperback
Although this book purports to be a biography of Asad, it is really a whirlwind tour of 20th-century Syrian history. The book's main focus is on its foreign relations with the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and the United States. With clarity and insight, Seale details such seminal events as the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, the Middle East peace process, and the Gulf Wars. Seale provides the perfect balance of explanation and analysis while never getting bogged down in useless detail. Useful analyses of such key figures as Sadat, Begin, and Sharon are just as relevant today as they were when this book was written. His detailing of Asad's relationship with Kissinger is enough to make the reader cringe for, unfortunately, Kissinger's duplicity and manipulations were not limited to such places as Chile,Kurdistan,etc. This book is invaluable for its enumeration on the political situation in the Middle East. Valuable to the reader struggling to gain an overall understanding of the Middle East, this book also shrewdly portrays Asad's rise to power both in his own country and in the Middle East.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By conjunction on 29 Jun. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As other reviewers say, this book highlights the role of modern Syria in the middle east crisis which has gone on so long. When Asad came to power with Ba'athist colleagues in the sixties Syria was a country with little credibility as an independent nation. People like Asad saw Syria as part of the Arab nation, and at that time were under the spell of Nasser of Egypt who at one time seemed likely to unite the Arab world and stand up effectively against Western influences. However Nasser's way of doing things was to subjugate other nationalities to his own way without considering their character or needs and Syria broke with him. Asad and his comrades established themselves initially as an independent socialist country, neither communists, nor yesmen to other Arab states. After Asad fought off his rivals to become president around 1970 he spent a decade or more learning the hard way what it meant to try and unite the Arab cause in an area where not only Israel had its heavily underwritten ambitions to further but the US and Russia not to mention France and other nations all had their axes to grind. He discovered that relations with his fellow Arab nations would prove almost as difficult as the struggle against Israeli hegemony, aided and abetted as they were for the most part by the US, above all Kissinger, highly skilled at playing off one nation against another, and others who followed in his footsteps.

This very well researched book - the bibliography cites book in many languages including Arabic - then is mostly a story of how Asad learned to live with the big hitters on the international stage, and eventually to at least hold his own, mostly by learning to heed his own counsel.

I would say it would be impossible to really understand what is going on in the middle east without understanding the position of Syria, and this is one of very few books which has anything to say about it. But thats all right because its a cracker.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Neutral VINE VOICE on 10 May 2012
Format: Paperback
It's impossible to understand Syria without knowing its history, culture or geography. Patrick Seale provides comprehensive coverage of all three. Asad, who ruled Syria between 1971 and 2000, was born in Qardaha in the mountainous region of North West Syria, close to the border with Turkey. Historically, the area has been variously known as Canaan, Phoenicia and the Levant. Its population were overwhelmingly Alawis, a Shia Islam sect but a minority in Syria as a whole. Historically they were known as the Nusayriya or Ansariya people but were designated Alawis during the French Mandate after the First World War. The people were poor and illiterate a situation Asad's Turkish grandfather actively sought to change, sending Asad to Latakia to be educated.

Syrian children were taught to hate the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Balfour Declaration the following year as carving up "natural" Syria. The French took control of Northern Syria which became the Republics of Lebanon and Syria, while the British adminstered Palestine, Jordan and Mesopotamia. Although the French Mandate was supposed to be a form of guardianship of young nations, the French ousted Faisal as King of Syria and established a colonial regime, while Britain supported Faisal who became King of Iraq. The French reduced the size of Syria by surrendering large areas to Turkey. They also awarded privileges to the traditionally oppressed Alawis and encouraged separatism. However, they did not address the division and conflict between rich and poor.

In the mid-forties there were three ideological movements in Syria - Communist, Ba'thist and Syrian Nationalist, none of which were happy with the Islamic aims of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the age of 16 Asad joined the Ba'thist Party.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles Wahab on 14 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book back in the day almost 7 years ago, and it was one of the first books about the Middle East that I read. If Assad himself would have written an autobiography, it would have come very close to this one. Hafez el-Assad was a very reserved man, and politics was his life. When he wasn't secluded in his office and among his books and papers and memos, he was with his family, and often training his sons, Basil initially and later on Bashar, on the ins and outs of politics in the arab world. Assad's ruze was unseen before in the Arab world, and he would later emerge as the undisputed "man to deal with" when it came to the west and middle east politics. Kissinger himself described him as a fox. Seal only met with Assad 10 times, but because Assad liked him, Seal obtained an insight few could have, and for a man like Assad it was enough, because the man's politics almost tell everything about his persona. From Assad's rise in the ranks of the army, his takeover of power and his elimination and subduing of political rivals, Seal succeeds to give a good and detailed description of Assad's rise and political prowess. From the Bath party establishment, the United Arab Republic, the 67 & 73 wars,Nasser, Kissinger and notably, the Hama slaughter and Lebanon, which was at the core of the Arab Israeli conflict, and his final years, my copy of the book ended with lots of folded pages and scribbles that, if anything, my respect for Assad as an Arab, a politician and a statesman is immense, whether you agree with him or not is left to the reader as the author succeeds in objective biography of a man who very few can understand.
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