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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Islamic State Has Saved Bashar Assad’s Regime

Filed under: ISIS, Israeli Security, Radical Islam, Syria, The Middle East

Syrian President Bashar Assad should thank Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State, for the fact that due to his organization’s horrific murders and ongoing expansion in the Middle East, the United States and Western countries have changed their minds about ousting Assad and instead decided to launch negotiations with him for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Syria.

Assad talked with his troops recently
Assad talked with his troops recently

After four years of the bloody civil war, President Assad feels he is riding high and has managed to defeat both his battlefield enemies and his political opponents – the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

The main loser in this war has been the Syrian people, 200,000 of whom have died with millions more displaced or turned into refugees.

The “moderate” Syrian opposition has been hit hard, and it is not yet clear if it will recover.

The moderate rebel organization, “Hazzm,” has announced its dissolution, and it is uncertain what will happen with the training in Turkey and Saudi Arabia that the United States had planned for the moderate rebels.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave the official stamp of approval to Assad’s triumph, telling CBS News on March 15, 2015 that Washington would “have to negotiate in the end” with Assad to ensure a political change in Syria.  The State Department spokeswoman added, “There has always been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of this process.”

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. Kerry was preceded by UN representative Staffan de Mistura, who met with Assad on February 17, 2015 and said Assad was “part of the solution in Syria.” In addition, CIA Director John Brennan explained on March 13, 2015 that the United States, Russia, the regional countries, and the members of the anti-Islamic State coalition are not interested in the “collapse” of Assad’s regime.

The main concern that brought the Western and Arab coalition to this conclusion was that Assad’s fall would cause both a bloodbath and a governmental vacuum that jihadist Islamic organizations would fill.

The coalition states’ aerial attacks on Islamic State targets turned out to be ineffective and the “moderate” Syrian opposition, which Washington had cultivated, collapsed.

Over the past four years the United States has watched the Syrian army’s unwavering loyalty to Assad, who has also been helped by thousands of fighters from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hizbullah. These forces have fought by Assad’s side and prevented the fall of his regime.

The Syrian army has also been supported with funds and weapons from Iran and Russia, and the Syrian people, who are disappointed by the West’s weakness and inability to help topple the tyrannical regime, have gradually started reconciling themselves to the situation.

The change in U.S. policy toward Assad’s regime is also linked to the world powers’ negotiations with Iran. Washington’s aim is to remove sanctions from Iran and make it part of the struggle against the Islamic State. How could that square with toppling Assad’s regime that is also fighting the Islamic State?

According to Arab sources, the United States is already conducting negotiations with Assad through different secret channels for a diplomatic solution that would resolve the Syrian crisis and leave him in power.

Assad, who is encouraged by his success and propped up by Russia, China, and Iran, will undoubtedly pose rigid terms for a settlement in Syria that will ensure his continued rule and ongoing Alawite control of the country.

Although the crisis in Syria is still not over, and battles keep raging throughout the country, it is abundantly clear that Assad is the big winner in the military and diplomatic contest so far.