Passings: Patrick Seale

Patrick Seale

Patrick Seale, 83, a veteran British journalist whose books established him as the leading expert on modern Syria, died Friday in London, according to family and friends. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer last year.

Seale is best known for his authoritative biography of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad, "Assad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East." Published in 1988, the book is considered the definitive work on Assad, the father of Syria's current leader. "Seale does not pretty up Assad's struggle to the top, the brutal 1982 suppression of the Muslim-brethren uprising in Hama, or his willingness to use all the dirty tricks of the intelligence trade," Carl L. Brown wrote in a 1989 Los Angeles Times review. "Seale's portrait is that of a hard-eyed statesman surviving in a tough environment."

Seale wrote several other books, including "Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire" in 1992, in which he provocatively argued that Abu Nidal's terrorist group was actually run by Israel's foreign espionage agency, an allegation critics found weakly supported.

His last book, "The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad El-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East," tells the story of a turbulent region through the life of a Lebanese politician. It was published in 2010.

Born May 7, 1930 in Belfast, Seale spent his early years in Syria, where his father was a Christian missionary. He studied Middle Eastern history in England before becoming a foreign correspondent for Reuters and later for the British newspaper The Observer.

In recent years, Seale's perceived closeness to the Syrian leadership made him a target of opposition activists who deemed him an apologist for Assad. As Syria's protests gave way to civil war after a brutal military crackdown, Seale continued to call for a negotiated settlement of the destructive conflict.


— Times staff and wire reports

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