Assad Could Stay in Power After End of Syria’s Civil War

Officials are afraid that toppling the authoritarian could lead to a takeover by al-Qaeda backed Islamists. By Jordain Carney

Western officials are questioning whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s removal should be included in talks aimed at ending the country’s civil war, members of the Syrian opposition said.

The shift comes amongst an uptick in violence by al-Qaida-backed fighters in the country. The United States and Britain suspended nonlethal aid going into northern Syria last week in the wake of an attack by Islamic Front fighters on buildings held by other rebel groups.

(Related: Obama’s Syria Policy in Disarray, Is Counterterrorism Next?)

Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue,” one member of the Syrian National Coalition, a group of Western-backed rebels, told Reuters.

Another official suggested that Assad could be allowed to run again if a presidential election is held after his term ends next year.

If the United States and other Western allies are shifting their position it could bring them closer to Russian officials, who have spoken out against taking action against Assad.

Peace talks aimed at ending the civil war are expected to kick off next month.

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