In power since succeeding his father 2000, Bashar al-Assad is fighting for control of his country after protests against his rule turned into a full-scale armed rebellion.
He inherited a tightly controlled and repressive political structure from long-time dictator Hafez al-Assad, with an inner circle dominated by members of the Assad family's minority Alawite Shia community.
But cracks began to appear in early 2011, in the wake of the "Arab Spring" wave of popular dissent that swept across North Africa and the Middle East.
Following successful uprisings against authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, pro-democracy demonstrations were held in Damascus and several other cities.
President Assad responded with a mixture of concessions - dismissed as superficial and disingenuous by the opposition - along with a brutal crackdown, accusing his opponents of being "terrorists" funded by enemies abroad. But the attempts at repression - as well as attempts at international mediation - failed and the conflict turned into a fully-fledged internal war.
Mr Assad's government continues to enjoy strong diplomatic support from Russia and traditional ally Iran, while some even accuse these powers of supplying it with arms. The president's troops have been bolstered by fighters from Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group.
Rise to power
Bashar al-Assad would probably have been working as an optician had his brother not died in a car accident in 1994.
The death of Basil - groomed to succeed Hafez al-Assad - catapulted the younger brother into politics, and into the presidency after his father died in June 2000.
During his six-year political apprenticeship, Bashar al-Assad completed his military training, met Arab and other leaders and got to know the movers and shakers in Syrian politics.
On taking office he ushered in a brief period of openness and cautious reform. Political prisoners were released and restrictions on the media were eased. Political debate was tolerated and open calls for freedom of expression and political pluralism were made.
But the pace of change alarmed the establishment - the army, the Baath party and the Alawite minority. Fearing instability and perceiving a threat to their influence, they acted not only to slow it down, but to revert to the old ways.
A referendum in 2007 endorsed Bashar al-Assad as president for a second seven-year term. He was the only candidate.
- Administrative divisions: This entry generally gives the numbers, designatory terms, and first-order administrative divisions as approved by the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN). Changes that have been reported but not yet acted on by BGN are noted.
- Capital city > Geographic coordinates: This entry gives the name of the seat of government, its geographic coordinates, the time difference relative to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and the time observed in Washington, DC, and, if applicable, information on daylight saving time (DST). Where appropriate, a special note has been added to highlight those countries that have multiple time zones.
- Capital city > Name: This entry gives the name of the seat of government, its geographic coordinates, the time difference relative to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and the time observed in Washington, DC, and, if applicable, information on daylight saving time (DST). Where appropriate, a special note has been added to highlight those countries that have multiple time zones.
- Constitution: The dates of adoption, revisions, and major amendments to a nation's constitution
- Country name > Conventional long form: This entry is derived from Government > Country name, which includes all forms of the country's name approved by the US Board on Geographic Names (Italy is used as an example): conventional long form (Italian Republic), conventional short form (Italy), local long form (Repubblica Italiana), local short form (Italia), former (Kingdom of Italy), as well as the abbreviation. Also see the Terminology note.
- Diplomatic representation from the US > Mailing address: This entry includes the chief of mission, embassy address, mailing address, telephone number, FAX number, branch office locations, consulate general locations, and consulate locations.
- Executive branch > Cabinet: Cabinet includes the official name for any body of high-ranking advisers roughly comparable to a U.S. Cabinet. Also notes the method for selection of members.
- Executive branch > Head of government: Head of government includes the name and title of the top administrative leader who is designated to manage the day-to-day activities of the government. For example, in the UK, the monarch is the chief of state, and the prime minister is the head of government. In the US, the president is both the chief of state and the head of government.
- Government type: A description of the basic form of government (e.g., republic, constitutional monarchy, federal republic, parliamentary democracy, military dictatorship).
- Judicial branch: The name(s) of the highest court(s) and a brief description of the selection process for members.
- Legal system: A brief description of the legal system's historical roots, role in government, and acceptance of International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.
- Legislative branch: This entry contains information on the structure (unicameral, bicameral, tricameral), formal name, number of seats, and term of office. Elections includes the nature of election process or accession to power, date of the last election, and date of the next election. Election results includes the percent of vote and/or number of seats held by each party in the last election.
- Political parties and leaders: Significant political organizations and their leaders.
- Political pressure groups and leaders: Organizations with leaders involved in politics, but not standing for legislative election.
- Suffrage: The age at enfranchisement and whether the right to vote is universal or restricted
"Syria Government Stats", NationMaster. Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government
"Syria Government Stats, NationMaster." 1945-2014. <http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government>.
'Syria Government Stats, NationMaster', <http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government> [assessed 1945-2014]
"Syria Government Stats", NationMaster [Internet]. 1945-2014. Avaliable from: <http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government>.
"Syria Government Stats", NationMaster. Avaliable at: nationmaster.com. Assessed 1945-2014.
"Syria Government Stats, NationMaster," http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government (assessed 1945-2014)
"Syria Government Stats", NationMaster, http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government (last visited 1945-2014)
"Syria Government Stats", NationMaster, http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/profiles/Syria/Government (as of 1945-2014)