Customer Reviews


8 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and informative
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...
Published on 19 Oct 1998

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good biography of the late Syrian president
I say good but with some reservations. The edition that I had of the book was littered with spelling mistakes and I found that particularly annoying. However, Seale gives us a good portrayal of the late Hafez al Assad and his rise to power and subsequent struggle to keep it. Most interesting was the account of his struggle with the international events and crises of the...
Published on 4 Feb 2011 by Wassim


Most Helpful First | Newest First

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and informative, 19 Oct 1998
By A Customer
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Put Syria on the Map, 29 Jun 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reader on Arab views of foreign policy, 20 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This book is interesting in that it takes the view of the Middle East from the Arab side. This in itself makes it an almost indispensable reader for those who want to find out both sides of the story of the struggle in the Middle East.
Basically, it tells the struggle of Hafez Asad and Syria to confron Israel and to stand up for Arab rights. Unfortunately, this has led Syria into fifty years of conflict with Israel.
This book goes through everything, the early years of conflict in the 1950's, the disaster of 1967, the even bigger setback of 1973 and Egypt's peace with Israel, and the final redemption of the Lebanon war (the only time when Arabs were able to resist Israel and push them back over their border).
It also covers Syrian wrong-doings, such as the massacre in Hama (often quoted by the west and Israel), and how these situations were created and sponsored by foreign security services (no prizes for guessing who). Read it and find out... Be prepared to find out that Al-Quaeda are linked to the people that Asad fought in Hama (the Muslim brotherhood)? This book was written in 1992, but if you make the connection this book takes on an even more unsettling relevance.
A worthy book for the open reader, one who doesn't just swallow western platitudes about 'terror'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don�t dare comment on the Middle East before reading this !, 18 Mar 2000
I would not call myself a fan of political literature, yet I found this book absolutely riveting. Don't be fooled by the title, it's much more than just a biography of the mysterious Syrian leader. The book explains the background to the current problems in the Middle East and does not shy away from exposing the Israeli Middle East agenda and it's Washington allies. The book offers very fair commentary and illustrates how Kissinger and his cronies have created a time-bomb in this part of the World. It dispels the carefully cultivated myth of Israeli "self defence" and is a damming indictment of a grossly biased US policy that can only harm America in the longer term.
It's undoubtedly uncomfortable reading for us in the West and forces us to question our perceptions. For instance, how do we define terrorism and who are the real terrorists in the Middle East ? Why was it deemed critical to knock Saddam Hussein down to size after the Iran - Iraq war? Why is Israel able to consistently flout / side step and break both international conventions and UN resolutions? All these issues and more are answered in this superb commentary book.
"Asad" does of course delve the personality of this modern statesman and offers insight into his shrewdness and the events that shape his policies. He is portrayed as an essentially peaceful man who wants peace but not a peace dictated by exclusively Israeli terms. In short, he is the one Arab leader who understands the need to negotiate from a position of equality with Israel. The Syrian leader does of course have a darker side to his personality, and the book does not shy away from exposing this. Yet we must temper this with the knowledge that other Middle Eastern personalities (including Rabin, Dayan, Begin, Ben-Gurion and Meir are hardly angels). This book is a "must read". Buy it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Syria, 10 May 2012
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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. Ba'thism was prone to factionalism with Zaki al-Arsuzi forming the Arab Ba'th Party in 1940 and Michel Aflaq the Arab Ihya Movement the same year. Asad supported Arsuzi's version of history which claimed Islam had served the interests of the Arab nobility. It was Aflaq who expanded Ba'thist political theory of raising Arab consciousness of their heritage and their unity which he considered were represented by the Ba'thist Party serving as the vanguard of progressive ideas. The main weakness of Ba'thist philosophy was its belief that an authoritarian regime was essential in governing. This meant that elections were superfluous. The way into government was to join the Ba'thist Party.

The French left Syria in 1946. Civilian politics were chaotic and in 1949 there were three military coups which, among other things, raised the status of the military. Asad and other country boys signed up and stayed while children of the mercantile and landowning classes did their military service but moved on. By "scorning the army as a profession, they allowed it to be captured by their class enemies who then went on to capture the state itself." This occurred as the role of absentee owners reaping the rewards earned by the efforts of the peasantry were increasingly questioned. Furthermore, political conflict emerged between the Ba'th Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). Whereas the former thought of the Ba'th homeland as the whole Arab world, the SSNP thought in terms of the nation of Greater Syria. Following the staged killing of a leading Ba'th army officer, the Ba'th Party joined with the communists to eliminate the SSNP in a series of show trials.

The collapse of Western influence following the 1956 Suez crisis produced an unexpected political union between Syria and Egypt as the United Arab Republic (UAR). From the Ba'th point of view the union was necessary to ward off communist influence which had imcreased when the Soviet Union delivered arms and economic aid to the Syrian government. The Union proved to be fractious as Nasser exerted control over Syrian affairs demanding the army stay out of politics and political parties be abolished. Ba'thists became disillusioned with the UAR and Asad joined a conspiracy to end the Union. The overthrow of the isolationist Qasim regime in Iraq, which had utilised communist allies to suppress the Ba'th Party, provided an impetus for a coup in Syria to get rid of Nasserist elements in government. A coup in 1963 enabled the Ba'ath Party to take power but three years later Alawi officers removed the old Ba'th Party and replaced it with a Syrian version based on the teachings of al-Arsuzi. In 1970 Asad took control and established a "Corrective Movement" declaring Syria a secular socialist state with Islam as its religion.

The Alawis are a minority sect in Syria but control all the main levers of political and military power. Other religious minorities support them because of the history of Sunni oppression. Syria tried and failed to destroy Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, losing the strategic Golan Heights in the process. At home Asad's regime imposed censorship and applied terror tactics against dissidents. The Syrians became involved in the Lebanese civil war, with its intelligence services assassinating prominent opponents. In Syria itself political opposition was not permitted. The Muslim Brotherhood regarded the Alawis as heretics and disliked the State's secular outlook. In 1982 fundamentalist Muslims attacked Ba'th officials in the city of Hama. They were brutally crushed with Asad accusing the Brotherhood of being in the pay of the Americans and Iraqis. Asad himself developed the cult of personality which portrayed him as the leader of the country not just the leader of the government.

Asad's regime emphasised foreign policy but did invest heavily in changing Syria's economy to forge a nation. In practice Syria spent what it was unable to create thanks to foreign aid. Socialist ideals were abandoned in favour of conspicuous consumerism. The regime's human rights record was deplorable. Asad represented the Arabs' desire to be masters of their own destiny but not at the expense of introducing democracy. How long it will continue to do so is moot. Five stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Difference between Father and Son, 14 Mar 2009
By 
Charles Wahab (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good biography of the late Syrian president, 4 Feb 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I say good but with some reservations. The edition that I had of the book was littered with spelling mistakes and I found that particularly annoying. However, Seale gives us a good portrayal of the late Hafez al Assad and his rise to power and subsequent struggle to keep it. Most interesting was the account of his struggle with the international events and crises of the day. Sometimes I felt that Seale was not as impartial as he should have been when discussing the regimes struggle with its opponents and detractors.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
brilliant fascinating study of the man who put syria in the forefront of middle east politics
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East
Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East by Patrick Seale (Hardcover - 1988)
Used & New from: 3.75
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews