His Brother's Keeper

1970, Rifaat has not only served the regime with unflagging loyalty but has also had a hand in most of the nation's bloodier actions. "He is the one who keeps his brother in place," says one U.S. State Department official. In the midst of Syria's cutthroat factionalism, he may not be averse to taking that place himself.

"Shrewd and dangerous as a snake," as a general in Israeli intelligence describes him, Rifaat flexes his muscles through the 280 tanks and 15,000 troops of the Defense Companies. Charged with the defense of metropolitan Damascus, Rifaat's men have sometimes been called on to defend...

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