As world leaders clash over how best to deal with Syria, is the West right to be more tolerant towards Assad?

Bashar al-Assad has a much stronger support base than the West anticipated. (Source: Getty)

Kamal Alam, fellow at RUSI and Syrian military analyst advising the British Army on Syrian affairs, says Yes

Three years ago, Bashar Jaafari – the suave Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations – slammed the West on the UN Security Council floor for trying to use Syria in games similar to the ones TE Lawrence once played.


Exactly 100 years ago, the much-hyped Lawrence failed to create a genuine Syrian uprising. To be exact, only 560 Syrians joined the so-called Arab revolt that he whipped up in Arabia. And most of the fighters that were part of Allenby’s army and Lawrence’s brigade were from the Arabian Peninsula down south.

Similarly, in the current Syrian crisis, no matter what the wrongs of both sides of war, the bottom line is that Bashar al-Assad has a much stronger support base than the West anticipated.

The godfathers of American foreign policy in the Middle East, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both stated this in 2014. Assad is no threat to Western security while the men he is fighting are proven terrorists; there is no moderate Syrian opposition.

Tom Wilson, associate fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, says No

Western voices advocating that we accept Bashar al-Assad as the solution to combatting IS and stabilising Syria are themselves indicative of how our thinking here has been weak, short-sighted, and morally bankrupt.


From the outset, our policy has been exclusively reactive, lacking leadership or courage. Hesitating on the sidelines, we left Syria to spiral out of control, permitting catastrophic upheaval, the emergence of IS, and allowing Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to flood into the vacuum. Still unwilling to be decisive, Western politicians look for anyone else to assume their responsibilities.

It becomes tempting to rationalise the idea that Assad and his murderous regime might be best for Syria after all. And that, backed by Russia and Iran, Assad will eradicate IS and stem Europe’s migrant crisis.

But a man who uses barrel bombs, chemical weapons and starvation against his own people is no stabilising force. Assad is part of Syria’s past. And, for the country to move forwards, he should be left there .

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