Arguments For and Against Keeping Bashar al-Assad as Syria's President

The system of power in Syria will collapse without al-Assad, including the army. At the same time Al-Assad’s legitimacy is questionable. He is part of a dynasty, like in North Korea. A free expression of will is impossible in conditions of a civil war.

Arguments for

1. We don’t demand that al-Assad keep the post of Syrian president. We insist that Syrians have the right to freely elect their leader. We are against the United States or any other country usurping the right to decide who will stand at the helm in any country. As of now, Bashar al-Assad is the legitimate president of Syria.

2. The system of power in Syria will collapse without al-Assad, including the army, which is the only effective, combat-ready force capable of fighting the global evil, ISIS. If al-Assad is forced to step down, terrorists will take over Syria.

Arguments against

1. Al-Assad’s legitimacy is questionable. He became president not through his service to the people or public trust, but because he is the son of the previous president, who seized power in a military coup. So, Bashar al-Assad is part of a dynasty, like in North Korea.

2. A free expression of will is impossible in conditions of a civil war. First, the totalitarian Baath system will ensure al-Assad at least 90 percent of the vote in the 20 or 25 percent of the national territory controlled by the government. Nobody will try to or will be able to organize elections in the remaining 75–80 percent of the territory. About 7,000 armed groups are fighting five wars in Syria, with 50 percent of houses and 60 percent of industrial facilities destroyed and the number of refugees exceeding four million people. How can these Syrian citizens, including those who have fled to Europe, cast their votes? Does al-Assad hope that the government army will resume control of Syria in a year and a half, in time for the presidential election? But what is the basis for these hopes? The Russian air force has been bombing targets in Syria for six months, but the Syrian army is still advancing at a snail’s pace. It hasn’t won a single major victory or taken a single ISIS fighter prisoner, although it is alleged that the terrorists are fleeing in panic, leaving their weapons behind. It’s clear that the Syrian army won’t defeat the government’s enemies on time, meaning ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and Ahrar ash-Sham. So, there won’t be any free elections in Syria.

3. The government army is not the only force in Syria capable of fighting ISIS. So far, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah Shi’ite forces and Kurdish militia have been the best fighters against ISIS. But ultimately, ISIS can only be defeated, if not routed, and prevented from spreading into the western and southern provinces of Syria by a combination of Russian air raids with a coalition of all anti-terrorist Syrian forces. These include the Free Syrian Army and the armed groups that were created by the Muslim Brotherhood and that are viewed as moderate Islamists, including Ahrar ash-Sham. But they have been fighting the government for the past several years and would never accept al-Assad as the head of state or even a transitional leader who would go later. This is why the idea of a coalition will hardly ripen, even if the United States and France agree to meet Russia halfway by withdrawing their demand for al-Assad’s unconditional resignation. Another reason is Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been arming and financing the opposition forces. Al-Assad is not an option for them, and they are unlikely to change their stance.
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