Bashar al-Assad’s Western culture is nothing more than a facade, failing to undermine the leader of the Alawite clan, the heir to a practice of power that only believes in the most brutal use of strength.
Bashar was only 35 years old when he succeeded his father, President Hafez al-Assad, who died in 2000. President Chirac had encouraged and supported him greatly. The "young President" was then credited with reformist intentions and a desire for peace. It was, however, feared that his training as an ophthalmologist in London, his shyness, his wordy language and his disarticulated appearance were incompatible with the exercise of power over a country considered vulnerable because of its ethnic and confessional complexity. It was also feared that his actions would be hindered by his father’s "old security guards".