Bashar is said to lack to his father's power base - and his
Although Bashar al-Assad
presidency on his father's death in 2000, analysts say he does not have
Hafez al-Assad's absolute grip on power.
Syria today is not so much an autocracy as an oligarchy controlled by
military and Baath party figures - many of whom thrived under Assad the
BBC looks at some of these powerbrokers.
Abdul Halim Khaddam, Vice-President
in 1932, Mr Khaddam has exercised considerable influence for three
decades and is regarded as a leading hardliner.
Khaddam is linked to Lebanon and attended ex-PM Hariri's funeral
A Baath Party official in the 1960s, he became foreign
minister and deputy prime minister in the 1970s.
1984 Mr Khaddam was promoted to the vice-presidency, and has worked to
assert Syria's dominance over Lebanon. "Lebanon will either be united or
will be returned to Syria," he said in 1976.
remains fiercely opposed to any loosening of the Baath party's grip on
newspaper interview last year, he said that those who suggested changing
the regime either did not understand that this would jeopardise the
"stability of the state" or "serve the plans of foreign elements and of
Asef Shawkat, head of military intelligence
Asef Shawkat is said to be very close to Bashar al-Assad
Born in 1950, Gen Shawkat is one of the youngest members
of the Syrian leadership.
studying law and history, he joined the army in the late 1970s.
rose through the ranks, but his fortunes rose spectacularly in the
mid-1990s when he married Hafez al-Assad's only daughter - despite
initial misgivings from within the Assad family on account of the
suitor's humble background.
subsequently promoted to the rank of major-general and became the
de-facto chief of military intelligence, a title he officially acquired
in February 2005.
Shawkat is very close to Bashar al-Assad. The president has come to rely
heavily on his brother-in-law, regarded by many as Syria's strongman
behind the scenes.
Farouq al-Shara, Foreign Minister
Shara has helped shape Syria's foreign policy for two decades
Born in 1938, Mr Shara has helped shape Syrian diplomacy
for two decades. As foreign minister since 1984, he has been a fierce
critic of Israel and the US.
the Iran-Iraq war, he defended Syria's policy of support for Iran, but
presided over a thaw in relations with Iraq in the 1990s.
Damascus' top negotiator, he led the Syrian delegation to peace talks in
the US in 2000.
negotiations broke down, Mr Shara was quoted as saying Syria would not
resume a dialogue unless Israel promised to withdraw from the Golan
has held him responsible for Syria's "pro-Iraq propaganda" during the
2003 Iraq war.
Bahjat Suleiman, intelligence chief
general and former of head military intelligence, Mr Suleiman once
supported Hafez al-Assad's brother Rifaat, an army officer who was
disgraced after attempting to seize power.
an officer in Rifaat's battalion in the 1980s. But he threw his weight
behind Bashar when succession was being discussed, and his support is
said to have been crucial.
Suleiman now head of internal security intelligence, and remains one of
the president's most influential aides.
Rami Makhlouf, businessman
first cousin of Bashar Assad, Rami Makhlouf is arguably the most
powerful economic figure in Syria.
his mid-30s, he controls the country's mobile phone network, SyriaTel.
According to a human rights activist, one member of parliament is
serving a five-year prison sentence for criticising the mobile phone
Whatever his standing at home, Mr Makhlouf is a key figure. Analysts say
no foreign companies can do business in Syria without his consent.
Ghazi Muhammad Kanan, Interior Minister
Kanan was spy chief before joining the cabinet
Born in 1942, Mr Kanan became a close military aide to
Assad senior in the early 1970s.
a long career at the top of Syrian army intelligence in Lebanon, before
returning to Damascus in 2002 to become head of political intelligence.
He joined the cabinet last year.
observers say he was appointed as interior minister in response to a
string of security incidents in 2004, including the killing of a Hamas
leader in a car bombing in Damascus and clashes with the Kurdish
minority in the north-east.
According to Lebanon's Daily Star, Kanan is a "capable and reliable pair
Hasan al-Turkumani, Defence Minister
in 1935, Mr Turkumani joined the army in the 1950s. He fought against
Israel and in Lebanon, before being made a general in the 1980s and
chief of staff in 2002.
also a long-standing senior member of the Baath party. His appointment
to replace Mustafa Tlas last year went against speculation that the next
defence minister would be a civilian.
Turkumani flatly rejects allegations that Syria supports terrorism.
2003, he said the US had "sought to market ready-made accusations
against Syria by accusing it of supporting terrorism and blaming it for
the escalation in the Iraqi resistance against the US occupation
Mustafa Tlas, Deputy Prime Minister
in 1932, this career soldier was a close friend of Hafez al-Assad. In
1971, the president made him deputy commander-in-chief of the armed
forces and soon afterwards defence minister.
swift rise was seen as an effort to give the military a central role. It
was also viewed as a way of appeasing Syria's Sunni majority, after
Assad gave key jobs to members of his own Allawi community.
Soviet help, Mr Tlas oversaw the expansion of the Syrian army in the
1970s. In 1984 he helped quell a coup attempt by the president's
maintained his influence throughout the 1990s and after Assad's death.
In May 2002, Bashar al-Assad delayed Mr Tlas' retirement as defence
minister by two years. He retains the less prominent job of deputy prime
minister but remains close to the president.