Alain Cass (FT 1974-95) right
Bashar al-Assad may, as some people suggest, be a puppet on a string. But if he’s devious and persistent in his ruthless battle to hold on to power it should come as no surprise. He’s a chip off the old block. His father Hafez al-Assad - who ruled Syria from 1971 until his death in 2000 - tied the FT up in knots during a four-hour interview in 1978. The interview came up as part of the FT’s first ever survey on Syria, led by Roger Matthews, then Middle East editor, who took me along with him. At the appointed time we took a battered Syrian cab to the presidential palace. We were kept waiting for 3 hours. When we finally got to see him, Assad was relentlessly, masterfully dull, boring us into submission. He said nothing but he did it with considerable charm. Back at the hotel Roger and I went to my room, ordered a couple of beers on room service, and collapsed into hysterical laughter. We had just enough for a 250-word story on an inside page.