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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Arab Spring at Five

Why Washington Didn't Intervene In Syria Last Time

Comparing 1982 to 2012

Syria's regime has changed little since the days of Hafiz al-Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar al-Assad. But the U.S. handling of Syria today contrasts sharply with Washington's behavior in the past. In the period with which I am most familiar, from 1974, when the embassy reopened after being closed for seven years following the Six-Day War and I became U.S. ambassador to Syria, until Hafiz al-Assad's death in 2000, the United States was little concerned with Assad's repressive domestic policies.

Assad came to power in 1970 after spending years rising through the ranks of the Syrian Air Force and the Baath Party, which had seized control of Syria in 1963. Once in office, he proceeded to build up the security services, which eventually came to consist of some 15 to 17 (often competing) forces. He controlled the senior appointments of each service and ensured that they all funneled their reports --

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