The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

New Syrian veep is a dame

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad appointed a new vice-president today -- Najah Al Attar, the Arab world's first woman to hold the position.

"Attar will be responsible for following culture policy according to the directions of the president," SANA said.

Attar, part of the old guard in the ruling Baath Party, was culture minister for more than two decades under late President Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years and was succeeded by his son Bashar in 2000.
But is she internet-savvy? I don't know, but her brother Issam Al Attar is a leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in exile.

Meanwhile, Prince Walid bin Talal vows to invest more in Syria after opening the country's first Four Seasons Hotel with Bashar Al Assad and a Syrian court has summoned Abdel Halim Khaddam and 24 members of his family to stand trial for corruption.

Update: Via Syria Comment, Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed says:

Speculations are mounting in Damascus on: why now? And: why Najah al-Attar?

One reason, according to observers, is a symbolic message aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood, because her brother is Issam al-Attar, the former leader of the Brotherhood who is currently in exile in Europe. It comes as the Brotherhood, currently headed by Ali Sadr al-Din al-Baynouni, teams up with former Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam in Europe, creating a united front to oppose and bring down the Syrian regime.

Drawing a relation between Attar’s appointment and the Syrian regime's feud with the Muslim Brotherhood is a grand misconception. After all, Attar has been with the government since the 1970s, at a time when her brother was actively fighting the Baathists. Her appointment as minister of culture in the 1970s was a political message aimed at the Brotherhood but today, her brother Issam is old and politically inactive. Her appointment as vice-president means nothing to ongoing war between the Baathist and Brotherhood.

What it means is that the Syrian regime has started to single out talented people—many being independents, and bring them to positions of authority with the hope of curbing the rising discontent in the Syrian street.
He has tons of biographical info about Al Attar, which seems to be at odds with the bit quoted above.