| Syrian leader Hafez el-Assad, head of the Syrian Ba'ath party, is a member of the minority Alawite sect. As a young man, he trained as a pilot in the Soviet Union and in 1964 was named Commander of the Syrian Air Force. In 1966, Assad became the Defense Minister and, in that role, he was partially responsible for Syria's loss of the Golan Heights to Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.
In 1970, a Ba'ath Party-sponsored coup led to his being named President of Syria. Syria's participation in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel nearly cost the country even greater territorial losses. But under Assad's rule, Syria achieved near-hegemony in Lebanon.
Raymond Tanter. Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation. New York: St. Martin's Press, c1998.