James Harkin

James Harkin's reporting on and from Syria has appeared in The Guardian, The New Republic, and The Atlantic. His book, War Against All: The Struggle for Northern Syria, has just been published as a Kindle Singles e-book.

Recent Articles

When Assad Dropped the Façade

It's hard to believe, but Bashar al-Assad once presented himself to the world as Syria's modernizer.

AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan Syrian President Bashar al-Assad I n 1994, Bashar al-Assad was appointed chairman of the Syrian Computer Society. It was the only official title he would hold before landing the country’s top job, president, in 2000, but the appointment seemed to speak volumes about the direction in which his country was headed. This was six months into President Bill Clinton’s first term, in the same year that Tony Blair was elected as the leader of Britain’s Labour Party. Modernization was all the rage. Bashar, the mustachioed Mr. Bean of the Assad family, had not expected to be groomed for politics. The Computer Society gig only rolled into his lap because of the death of his older brother Basil. But he was perfect for it. For the previous two years he’d been living off Sloane Street in West London, training as an ophthalmologist, wooing the beautiful, thoroughly modern British-Syrian Asma al-Akhras, who would go on to become his wife, and spending a huge amount of time...