Thirty-four-year-old Bashar Assad of Syria is part of a new generation of Middle Eastern leaders. He’s a Western-educated eye doctor with a passion for Phil Collins and the internet – different in many ways from his father, Hafez-al-Assad, the Lion of Damascus.
Assad Senior was to many the standard-bearer of Arab nationalism and may be remembered as the guy who didn’t make peace with Israel. He transformed Syria into a major player in the Middle East, but his iron rule sealed off the country once known as the great capital of Islamic civilization.
For Assad’s mild-mannered son Bashar the job is first to gather up the reigns of power in Syria, then face the real tests. The Syrian economy is stagnant, the country fell off the technology bandwagon years ago, 30,000 Syrian troops are still in Lebanon, and the ruling Alawite minority seems set against peace with Israel. Where will Syria go now?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Ahmed Khalidi, Middle East writer and senior associate member of St. Anthony’s College at Oxford, London
Scott Peterson, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor who is covering the funeral of the president in Damascus
and David Lesch, Associate Professor at Trinity in San Antonio and commentator on the Middle East.