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The Truth about Syria Paperback – Bargain Price, May 27, 2008

ISBN-10: 0230604072 Edition: First Edition

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Paperback, Bargain Price, May 27, 2008
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230604072
  • ASIN: B0064XO9JK
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,281,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Syria will play a major role in the years to come both as a player and an issue in world politics. This book, written by a veteran student of Middle East affairs, is the most up-to-date and reliable guide available on this subject."
--Walter Laqueur, Emeritus Professor, Georgetown University, and author of The Road to War
"In this book Barry Rubin takes Syria as a model of Arab tyranny. What might look like gratuitous violence, cruelty, or mendacity serves the purpose of shoring up the power of the one-man ruler and his regime, and is completely predictable. There is now no good reason for the West and its leaders to go along with this dynamic, indeed to feed it regularly. Rubin describes with care, and prescribes with caution. The achievement is as informed as it is humane."
--David Pryce-Jones, author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs
"Barry Rubin's book is a much-needed examination that cuts through the delusions and fantasies currently in vogue about the Assad regime. Rubin nails the nature of Syria's rulers and their behavior, explaining why they are--and will always be--hard-line, chronic exporters of instability."
--Tony Badran, Research Fellow (Levant), Foundation for Defense of Democracies
"The Truth About Syria . . . is a welcome contribution to the largely unimpressive body of research on modern Syria. Rubin's well-sourced study provides an unvarnished appraisal of Syrian politics, making no apologies for the brutal internal and destabilizing foreign policies that characterized the 30 year rule of Syrian leader Hafiz Assad and that persist under Hafiz's son and successor Bashar. The Truth About Syria is informative, insightful, and readable, and is an important contribution toward understanding this important but understudied state."
--David Schenker, Senior Fellow in Arab Politics, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
"Professor Rubin's book comes at a time when the debate over Syria and its regime is growing throughout Europe and America. He courageously gathers evidence showing the impossibility of dealing with Syria or changing its behavior. The merit of Rubin's book lies in the thorough dissection of the regime's psychological conduct, and of the tools this dictatorship has used in the past and uses now to remain in power. Any approach to the Syrian problem that does not take Professor Rubin's analysis into consideration will be an incomplete one."
--Elie Fawaz, Lebanese political analyst

Book Description

Syria has long presented a serious problem for the Middle East region and U.S. policy. With its mix of competing religious and ethnic groups, radical ideologies, and political repression, it is a 72,000-square-mile time bomb waiting to go off. Yet surprisingly, very little is known about this country and the role it has played in shaping the destiny of the Middle East. In The Truth about Syria, Middle East expert Barry Rubin looks at the critical issues that have made the country the powderkeg of the Middle East and offers an insightful analysis of the effects of recent developments.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Just a great book for anyone interested in the Midddle East.
Jorge I. Villanueva
There are very legitimate complaints about the state of Syria but 99% of the one Rubin bring up are just ridiculous and unfounded.
Christopher M. Whitman Jr.
We can't offer Syria what it wants without further destabilizing the region.
Jill Malter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. King on July 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
Revealing insights into the dynamics of the Assad dictatorship that has been running Syria for the last 40 years, useful background given the current protests against the regime.

Rubin's first major point is that the Assad's greatest success has been the rebranding of their ruling minority Alawite Nusayri faction (12% of the pop) as quasi Shias and their emphasis on defining Syria as an Arab state at the forefront of non-existent pan-Arab unity. The irony here is that, at least formerly, the Alawaite sect was regarded as heretic as they not only celebrate the 9th century prophet Nusayri (Mohammed is supposed to the be final prophet) they also consider him to be a manifestation of God and don't perform salah - daily prayers.

Example after example shows that the goal of the regime is to keep the Assads in power - all else is secondary. Loyalty is considered far more important than merit or competence and The Assads, like Saddam Hussein did in neighbouring Iraq, have made sure to install their kinsmen in key positions of power. Any dissent from the majority Sunnis who dominate the business class is kept in line by mukabarat security forces. Newspapers are licensed by the State and can only publish that which is favorable to the regime.

A quote listed on pp207 should be kept in mind. In an interview in Der Spiegel in August 2005, son Bassar Assad said: "If any Syrians are involved (in the Hariri assassination), it means I'm involved." During the At the beginning of this month representatives of the Special Tribunal For Lebanon investigating the Rafiq Hariri assassination served indictments on 4 members of Syria's proxy Hezbollah, and then flew to Damascus to serve more.

The Syrians have always regarded Lebanon as part of greater Syria.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By PJ on June 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
I don't think we can ever claim that this type of book writing is objective. There may be objective dates and events, but one look at the title "The Truth About..." is enough to suggest that this book is the result of the author's experience of the region. His language is not academic and is filled with expressions that shout "this is my opinion". Therefore, it is pointless to make a judgement about his book based on his ethnic background.

In controversial topics like the one this book tackles, it's important to read as many books as possible from different authors, both academic and non-academic. I think that Barry Rubin has written an easy-read account of various events in Syrian and Middle Eastern recent history with this book.

What I got out of the book was that Syria has been a rogue state with very self-destructive internal policies. For decades, the regime has been run by elite that have focused on meddling into neighboring countries' affairs instead of addressing their own peoples' plights. Furthermore, this has been- possibly on purpose- largely ignored by the West especially by the US. I would argue that, with this book, Barry Rubin has attempted to call on to Western (particularly) American foreign policymakers to take a more effective and pro-active stance against Syria, instead of running after imaginary missions (a.k.a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq).

I think the gist of the book is that the West has failed to identify the reasons why Palestine and Israel have not settled there differences for so long. And one real reason is interference from Syria.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Mitchell on December 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is in the style of academic books on the former Soviet Union or Nazi Germany--the anatomy of a dictatorship. Rubin details early Syrian politics, the rise to power as sole dictator of Hafez al-Assad and then the transfer of power to his son Bashar al-Assad. For those wishing to understand the internal dynamics of Syria this appears to be quite a good guide. I would urge caution, however, in reading the chapter on relations with Israel. Rubin writes with certainty and conviction, and some persuasion, that Ba'athist Syria is incapable of making peace with Israel. But he writes that Israel offered to return all of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace and Assad turned Israel down. This is not true. Rabin made the offer provided that Syria was willing to offer full peace in exchange. But Peres broke off talks in the early spring of 1996 because Syria refused to condemn a terrorist attack and Barak wanted to adjust the border when his final offer was made to Assad by Clinton in March 2000. Dennis Ross blamed Assad's rejection of the offer on Assad's focus on assuring a smooth succession before his impending death from cancer. So Rubin's thesis regarding Israeli-Syrian peace has yet to be fully tested, contrary to what he writes. But I still urge those interested in Syria and Middle East peace to read this book.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ami Isseroff on March 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Professor Rubin's book does for Syria what John Gunther did many years for USSR. Shorn of topical references, this is an "Inside Assad's Syria" and can give many people insights into what the regime is about, how it works and what it is like. It is, if you will, a "user's guide."

That doesn't mean that every prognostication or evaluation in the book is precisely right, but it does mean you will come away with the understanding that a regime such as Syria is very different from the sort of political reality that you might know as a person living in a free society with post modern industrial values.

I would have liked to see more history and detail about the workings of the regime and relation to Hezbollah and Iran, suppression of dissidents and prospects for political change, and less dwelling on prognostications that are apt to be mistaken in the nature of things, but this is still a must-read book.

When you come to a place like Syria or want to understand such a regime, everyone must understand "You are not in Kansas Dorothy" - words don't have the same meaning, concepts like democracy don't mean the same thing either.
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