Members of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) report that they have been told by Western officials that they believe President Bashar Assad must remain in power to prevent an al-Qaeda takeover of the country.
“Some do not even seem to mind if he runs again next year,” noted one SNC member. That’s not sitting well with the SNC, but it may not matter.
Western diplomats confirmed the shift, saying that the rebels have been warned that any “transitional administration” would have to include a major presence from Alawites, and that Assad could stay as president with “diminished powers.”
If the rebels reject that plan “they will lose most of the West,” one diplomat said, reflecting the dwindling confidence in the secular rebels’ ability to accomplish anything on their own.
This appears to be only one of the possibilities the West is exploring, with both the US and Britain openly talking to Islamist rebels about backing them as the new “pro-West” rebels.