"But I'm hopeful that, within the context of Syrian political life, which has been totalitarian, brutalized, impoverished -- that within this context, the fresh face, fresh approach of Bashar Assad could lead to good things." (Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, June 14, 2000.)
A scholar of the modern Middle East, Pipes is known as a strident and controversial conservative on the subject of Islam. Unsurprisingly, his optimistic assessment of Bashar's politics, offered shortly after the death of his father, quickly curdled. One year later, Pipes was criticizing Assad for his ineffectual leadership, and two years after that, he was a vocal proponent of the Bush administration's efforts to sanction the Syrian regime. Late in 2003, Bush appointed Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace.