Bidding for a Bigger Role: Syria seeks to become the prime Arab power

With cunning and ruthlessness, Syria seeks to become the prime Arab power

In the heart of old Damascus sits the filigreed stone tomb of Saladin, the 12th century sultan who ruled an empire stretching from Cairo to Baghdad. Worshipers bound for the gleaming Umayyad mosque pass by without pausing, and children scamper in a nearby courtyard oblivious of his presence. Yet as the premier potentate of the region, the conqueror of Jerusalem and the fearless warrior who helped crush the Crusaders, Saladin united a divided region and set off a burst of pride among his people that glowed for centuries.

Though aspirations and methods have been adjusted to the realities of the...

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