Hafez Assad 1930-2000: After The Lion

Assad's demise suddenly leaves Syria--and the Middle East--without a stable dictator

There always seems to be the music. Whenever dictators pass away, it seems, state-controlled TV takes to the airwaves not with news reports but with music--as if a mellifluous melody could somehow soothe the anxieties of a leaderless populace, a commanderless army and a watching world. And so it was when Hafez Assad died last week. Syrian state media trumpeted classical music and koranic verses--a TV prayer vigil for the 69-year-old dictator. The cameras captured weeping members of the Syrian parliament mourning the onetime air force pilot who had taken a poor nation of 17 million and made it, well, still...

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