Syria: Return of the First Brother

The head-table occupant who attracted the most attention at a state banquet in Damascus last week was neither the guest of honor, French President François Mitterrand, nor the host, Syrian President Hafez Assad. Instead, it was Assad's younger brother Rifaat, 47, one of Syria's three Vice Presidents, making his first appearance after returning from a mysterious six-month exile in Switzerland and France. Rifaat's sudden re-emergence seemed to indicate that he might soon resume his public duties, which include overseeing Syria's state security apparatus, and that he might attain heightened status as his brother's likely successor.

Diplomatic observers believe that Rifaat negotiated...

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