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Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad (b. 11 September 1965) is second-eldest son of Hafez al-Assad whom he succeeded as President of Syria in 2000. Despite joining the ruling Baath party's Youth Movement at 14, he was not always destined for high office. Instead he graduated from the University of Damascus with a degree in opthalmology. From 1988 to 1992 he continued his studies at the Tishrin military hospital in Damascus before pursuing further studies in London. However following the unexpected death of his elder brother Basil, Mr Assad was recalled back from London in 1994 to attend the military academy at Homs from which he eventually emerged as army colonel in 1999. Following his father's death on 10 June 2000 his presidency was secured by regime loyalists; the constitution was amended to allow a 34 year old to become head of state, Mr Assad himself was promoted to commander of the armed forces as well as secretary general of the Baath party, and finally a referendum in July 2000 gave him 97% of the vote to confirm his election as president. The period of reform and liberalisation during the earliest period of Mr Assad's stay in office, nick-named the 'Damascus Spring', was very short-lived.By early 2001, authoritarian policy was being re-implemented. Since then US-Syrian ties have remained tense over the issue of Israel, whilst Mr Assad has cultivated stronger links with Russia, China and Iran. In the wake of the Arab Spring when anti-government protests erupted in Deraa in mid-march 2011, President al-Assad's forces made a concerted effort to crackdown on the dissent.The military crackdown continued to intensify and has erupted into a national conflict with possible knock-on effects throughout the region.

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