The Corner

The Lure and Peril of Arab Presidential Dynasties

The outsize role of the ruler’s families provides a commonality in many of the Middle Eastern countries experiencing upheavals in 2011. In Tunisia, the dictator’s wife and her brood inspired much anger. But in most cases, rulers wanting their sons to succeed them shakes their rule:

  • Egypt: The military men who ruling in Cairo since 1952 took it askance when Hosni Mubarak prepared the way for his banker son, Gamal, to succeed him.

  • Libya: Mu‘ammar al-Qaddafi’s seven sons, some of which hoped to follow him, feuded among themselves and exacerbated hatred for the regime.

  • Yemen: Ali Abdullah Saleh filled the government with relatives and wanted his son Ahmed to succeed him, an aspiration that aroused opposition, especially from the tribes.

  • Syria: Hafez al-Assad did succeed in having his opthamologist son Bashar succeed him, only for Bashar’s ineptitude to prompt the regime’s worst crisis ever.

In addition, Saddam Hussein of Iraq worked assiduously to have his sons succeed him, which contributed to his vanity, misrule, and ultimate demise. 

Daniel Pipes — Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. A former official in the U.S. departments of State and Defense, he has taught history at Chicago, Harvard, and Pepperdine universities, ...

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