Syrian President Bashar Assad is son of former Syrian President Hafez Assad. Although he was not initially expected to succeed his father, Assad was designated as heir apparent following the death of his older brother in a 1994 car crash.
Assad subsequently joined the Syrian military and promoted to the rank of colonel in 1999. He was appointed army chief of staff after succeeding his father.
Assad took power in 2000, following his father's death. Despite expectations that the young, western-educated leader would liberalize the country, he has pursued hard-line policies.
He has been criticized by the United State and Israel for tolerating the presence of Palestinian terror groups in Syria and for his failure to curb the flow of terrorists into Iraq. Meanwhile, Syrian relations with both Israel and the U.S. remain tense.
Assad was born in Damascus in 1965 and is an opthamologist after studying in Damascus University and in England.
He is married with two children.