I HAVE known Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, since he was a college student in London, and have spent many hours negotiating with him since he has been in office.
This has often been at the request of the United States government during those many times when our ambassadors have been withdrawn from Damascus because of diplomatic disputes.
Bashar and his father, Hafez, had a policy of not speaking to anyone at the American Embassy during those periods of estrangement, but they would talk to me. I noticed that Bashar never referred to a subordinate for advice or information. His most persistent characteristic was stubbornness; it was almost psychologically impossible for him to change his mind — and certainly not when under pressure.
Before the revolution began in March 2011, Syria set a good example of harmonious relations among its many different ethnic and religious groups, including Arabs, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians who were Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Alawites and Shiites. The Assad family had ruled the country since 1970, and was very proud of this relative harmony among these diverse groups. New York Times