Bashar al-Assad is the current president of Syria. As a member of the Ba'ath Party of Syria, he is a socialist dictator, though in his reign some limited free market reforms were implemented. In 2011, the Arab Spring led to widespread protests in his country, which turned into the Syrian Civil War, in which more than 160,000 deaths have taken place.
Under al-Assad, Syria maintains a close alliance with theocratic Iran, despite his more secular form of governance. Like his father Hafez al-Assad, his relation with Saddam Hussein's Iraq was sour and tense, and after Operation Iraqi Freedom he established good relations with the new Iraqi government.
Al-Assad is very anti-American. Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Hussein Obama have met with him and both administrations have accused him, rightfully, of harboring terrorist organizations such as Hamas (which had its headquarters in Damascus) and Hezbollah. He is also hostile to Israel and Zionism and refuses to recognize the country's right to exist.
President al-Assad believes in Shia Islam in its Alawite variant (which is seen by some Muslims as a heretical sect), and Syrian Alawite elites are his base of support. He is married to Asma al-Assad, a former investment banker educated in Britain.
His elder brother, Basil, was killed in a car accident in 1994.