Appointment in Damascus

TIME columnist Joe Klein on the Syrian troop withdrawal and President Assad

The official photograph of Syrian President Bashar Assad is extremely stern. The photos and murals of his father and predecessor Hafez Assad, still festooned throughout Syria, are leavened by the confident gaze and beneficent smile possible only for a dictator in total control. Bashar, however, stares off into the middle distance, working hard to convey vision and strength but avoiding direct eye contact with his subjects. Indeed, the younger Assad, an ophthalmologist by trade who became heir apparent only when his older brother was killed in an automobile crash, remains something of...

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