Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as president of Syria in 2000. He was just 34, had studied in London, and some hoped he would open up the autocratic country. Instead, following the Arab spring uprising he has cracked down harder than ever on the Syrian people. In the decade-long civil war that followed, more than 500,000 people are thought to have died.
The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent, Martin Chulov, tells Anushka Asthana that as Assad lost control of vast areas of Syria following the uprising, he was at maximum vulnerability. But the intervention of Iran and Russia proved decisive. Now, after a widely discredited election victory with 95% of the vote, Assad begins his fourth term as president of a country deeply scarred by war.
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