Damascus Diary: An Inside Account of Hafez Al-Assad's Peace Diplomacy, 1990-2000

Arab Studies Quarterly, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Damascus Diary: An Inside Account of Hafez Al-Assad's Peace Diplomacy, 1990-2000


Bouthaina Shaaban. Damascus Diary: An Inside Account of Hafez al-Assad's Peace Diplomacy, 1990-2000 Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2013. 245 pages. Hardcover $55.00

This book is the only hitherto insider account regarding the making of Syria's foreign policy and diplomacy in the critical and eventful decade of 1990-2000. The author, Bouthaina Shaaban, worked closely with President Hafez Assad from 1990 until his death in June 2000 as an interpreter and advisor and narrates the Syrian account as both an insider to the policy making process and as a biographer of President Assad. Her book fills a void regarding the making of Syria's foreign policy since the November 1970 coup d 'état and informs of a quite different account than the common view in the west which assumes that President Assad conducted the process by himself.

Shaaban's account reveals an actually existing process of policy making that involves discussions and participation of members of Syria's political elite. In the case of what is famously known as the "Rabin Deposit," a political offer brought by the US Secretary of State Warren Christopher to President Assad on April 30, 1994, Shaaban reveals that President Assad consulted both his Foreign Minister and Defense Minister before delivering Syria's response a day later (101-102).

Damascus Diary covers an important period in the political history of both the Middle East region and the Syrian Arab Republic (1990-2000). This period, thus, might be seen as an exemplar on how Syria's foreign policy was made during the Assad regime better than any other period - this insider's account covers some of the most critical events in the 1990s (Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Madrid Conference, the Damascus and Geneva Summits with President Clinton, April War and April Understanding in Lebanon among many other events). …

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