The West and Israel have been reluctant to intervene with enough force to tip the balance in the fighting in Syria, but the continued influx of Sunni jihadists to the region and their increasing attacks in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq has some thinking President Bashar Assad’s regime is the better of two evils.
The number of jihadists in Syria has grown from 2,000 to more than 30,000 in two years, and if Assad falls, they “are going to move and deflect their effort and attack Israel,” a senior intelligence official told the AP on Sunday.
As the talks between the Syrian regime and part of the opposition continue in Geneva, it has become abundantly clear that Assad has no intention of stepping down and the opposition has no desire for an agreement that keeps him in power.
Some analysts believe that global powers have acquiesced in Assad’s remaining in power because of growing worries of jihadist gains in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, where foreign fighters have been streaming to support the jihad.
Another sign of this shift were reports that European intelligence agencies are secretly meeting with Assad to share information on Europeans operating with Islamist groups in Syria.
European countries are worried about their citizens fighting in Syria and that they could return to their home countries to carry out attacks.
According to Western and Middle Eastern officials and diplomats quoted by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, the discussions with the Syrian regime are focused on jihadist activities.
However, opposition elements are worried that the West is coming to accept the idea of Assad staying in power.
“We worry that these preliminary discussions could lead to broader cooperation,” an opposition member in Istanbul told the newspaper.
Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post that there is no doubt that jihadist gains in the region led to a change in perspective.
“The West and Israel are not in a hurry to get rid of Assad,” he said.
Referring to recent reports about Western intelligence cooperation with Assad’s regime, Zisser said that this is part of it.
Asked if jihadist attacks against Hezbollah in Lebanon are to Israel’s advantage, he responded that these groups are problematic because they are against both Israel and the Shi’ite organization.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Israeli-expert-on-Syria-The-West-and-Israel-are-not-in-hurry-to-get-rid-of-Assad-339456