The Associated Press reports: He is rarely photographed or even quoted in Syria’s media. Wrapped in that blanket of secrecy, President Bashar Assad’s younger brother has been vital to the family’s survival in power.
Maher Assad commands the elite troops that protect the Syrian capital from rebels on its outskirts and is widely believed to have helped orchestrate the regime’s fierce campaign to put down the uprising, now well into its third year. He has also gained a reputation for brutality among opposition activists.
His role underlines the family core of the Assad regime, though he is a stark contrast to his brothers. His eldest brother, Basil, was the family prince, publicly groomed by their father, Hafez, to succeed him as president — until Basil died in a 1994 car crash. That vaulted Bashar, then an eye doctor in London with no military or political experience, into the role of heir, rising to the presidency after his father’s death in 2000. The two brothers — the “martyr” and the president — often appear together in posters.
The 45-year-old Maher Assad, however, has resolutely stayed out of the limelight. Friends, military colleagues and even his enemies describe him as a strict military man to the core. [Continue reading…]