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on 11 October 2013
I'm not a student and certainly not an expert but a retired gent with an interest in world affairs. I have read a lot about central Asian and middle eastern conflicts but knew little about the background to this terrible conflict. Lesch does an excellent job of laying out the complexities both domestic and international and makes it easy to follow. The book ends in may 2013 so is up to date and relevant to today's news items. I've read a lot of authoritive books on other conflicts and some are too "academic" for my taste. Lesch's book is factual, easy to follow but never pretentious or patronizing.
As for the conflict itself, I was left thoroughly depressed and pessimistic. I see no good outcome indeed am even more anxious than I was about the sectarian divide in the context of the wider middle east.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 September 2013
This book, published in 2013, is an updated version of the author's 2012 hardback version, containing an Epilogue detailing the events in Syria over the intervening year. To date (Sep 2013) the "Fall of the House of Assad" has not happened and the book's title may be due as much to the publisher as to the author. The author is an academic and has been involved with Syria for many years, having met the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad several times. The imprint of Yale University Press confirms the author's academic credentials.

After a short introduction giving some historical background, the author gives a commented chronicle of the recent events in Syria. This chronicle can be confusing, but this is because the situation in Syria is confusing. However, this is a valuable aide memoire of a fast changing situation. Unfortunately, by the nature of book publishing, this information is always going to be out of date.

Chapter 1 "The Hope" surveys the promise felt when Bashar Al-Assad assumed power in 2000 and the short-lived "Damascus Spring" that followed. Chapter 2 "Surviving" describes his early years as president, coping with the Bush invasion of neighbouring Iraq, the 2005 murder of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and Syria's subsequent withdrawal of troops from Lebanon. Chapter 3 "Syria is Different" shows how the regime thought it was immune to the "Arab Spring". Chapter 4 "No, It's Not" shows that the regime was not immune. These chapters are followed by: "The Regime Responds", "Opposition Mounts", "The International Response" and "Wither Syria?". The Epilogue updates the story for the paperback edition. The book has one map and no chronological table of events. There is an extensive Notes section, notable for most of the references being to web pages rather than to books. There is also an Index.

Between buying this book and reading it I read a newspaper article about Syria by Robert Fisk, who is a respected Beirut-based journalist. At the end of the article he mentioned this book and Lesch's 2005 book on Bashar Al-Assad, derisively comparing Lesch's previous optimism with the current pessimism. This clouded my view when I starting to read this book, but eventually this cloud lifted.

David Lesch The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar Al Asad and Modern Syria The author's previous book on Bashar Al-Assad in 2005, when things looked much more hopeful.
James Barr A Line in the Sand The British and Fench mandates in the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a time when Syria's modern borders were drawn.
United Nations Arab Human Development Report 2002 Grim reading from impartial observers. This can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet.
Robert Fisk The Independent 2 Sep 2013 "Once Washington made the Middle East tremble - now no one there takes it seriously"
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on 2 September 2013
An authoritative, comprehensive account of the origins of, and regime response to, the Syrian uprising, situating events within the wider context of the Middle East in a way that neither intimidates nor patronises the lay reader. Scathing towards Assad, who the author sees as having wasted an opportunity to reform a stultified country, but also critical of the international response and in particular, the United States' slow response and apparent desire to wish the problem away. Also dwells on the makeup of the opposition in Syria, countering the narrative that it is made up of religious extremists rather than ordinary Syrians, but warns that the longer the regime digs in, the more the Syrian conflict is likely to become tangled up in wider regional power politics and ideological battles. Recommended.
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on 5 September 2013
This book is worth reading if you wish to get an idea of the complexity of the issues in modern Syria. At the time of writing this review the book is less than a year out of date - important for being relevant to a fast-moving situation. The author, Professor Lesch, knows Bashar Al-Assad personally and - though an American citizen - Lesch is not an apologist for the US attitude to the Assad regime.
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on 18 December 2015
I am reading it.
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on 24 December 2014
On the cusp of 2015 and President Assad is still in charge. Watcha gonna do bout that David?
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