Bashar Al-Assad
Syrian presdient Bashar al-Assad

The al-Assad dynasty ruling Syria can be compared to classic gangster trilogy The Godfather, according to David Lesch, the President's biographer.

Bashar al-Assad's life story - complete with murder, intrigue, lies and the threat of a tragic end - mirrors that of Michael Corleone in Mario Puzo's fictional mafia series, says Mr Lesch, who has spent the last decade researching his book, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Assad and Modern Syria.

"Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, al-Assad was never earmarked to take over from his father. He had a life, he was an ophthalmologist, and it was only when his brother died in 1994 that they started grooming him for power," he said in an interview with France 24.

It was the untimely death of his older brother Basil - tipped to follow in the footsteps of their father Hafez, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly three decades - that thrust the quiet and reserved Bashar into the limelight.

Unlike charismatic and handsome Basil, Bashar never showed much ambition to dictatorship, and instead looked set to embark on a career as a medical profession when his fate dramatically changed.

But despite a low-key start, Bashar has quickly grown to merit the blood-stained legacy he inherited from his father.

"With the crackdown [on the popular uprising since March 2011] Bashar al-Assad has maybe already become his father," said Mr Lesch, referring to Hafez's brutal massacre of Sunni dissidents in Hama in 1982.

"Power corrupts absolutely - and it is a partial explanation for what is happening today," he added.

Since the first ripples of dissent began in March, al-Assad has made empty promises of wide-ranging reforms while simultaneously and ruthlessly cracking down on protesters in cities across the country.

The international community has condemned al-Assad for his response to the uprising, and it is widely believed he may well become the next Colonel Gaddafi. Like Gaddafi, he is holding on to his dwindling power with a vice-like grip, and seems unlikely to give up any time soon. But increasing pressure, both from within Syria and abroad, may well force the dictator out.

But any analogies between al-Assad and others - whether fictional characters like the Godfather, or real personalities such as Gaddafi - risk painting a caricature of the Alawite ruler that makes a mockery of those fighting for freedom and democracy across the Arab world. True, al-Assad may not have chosen to be in his current position - but neither did the people he has spent so many years repressing. It is now their turn to see the limelight.