Will Obama eliminate Assad by the end of his term?

It’s historically proven that the Syrian regime responds to serious threats and not to verbal threats

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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It didn’t cross my mind to ask this question as I realize that the Obama administration has never desired to do anything.

This is its policy which it believes is less harmful and less costly - although events during the past eight years have been more harmful and came at a higher price. What pushed me to think about dealing with the Syrian crisis outside the box are the several statements made by Moscow warning Washington not to defy it in Syria. Oh Obama’s administration, beware of targeting the Assad regime in Damascus or Russia will shake the region!

So there is a possibility, even if it is small, that the US will defy the Damascus alliance during what little time is left of Obama’s presidential term. There are many motives, including putting an end to Iranian and Russian expansion in opposition areas and stopping massacres and the horrific destruction inflicted by these forces which will threaten the region’s security, Europe’s and perhaps the world’s.

It’s certain that some in the Obama administration will warn the president and advise him not to act against the Assad regime and Damascus. They will warn against the threat posed by the regime’s fall and say that it will trigger the collapse of the state and will lead to chaos across the country.

Truth be told, these are no longer convincing excuses as the regime has already been dismantled and is in a collapsed state. It lives in a medically-assisted state, supported by Iranian forces and extremist Shiite militias brought from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The majority of these forces do not even speak Arabic, Syria’s language. Fears of the spread of chaos worked as an excuse two years ago but today, there is no safe corner in Syria.


Chaos reigns and hampers security and many areas are subjected to the protection and governance of local and foreign gangs which collect money from residents by force. Therefore, targeting the regime’s headquarters in Damascus will send multiple messages. The first one confirms the necessity of respecting the map which divided the country between “our opposition” and “your forces” which the Iranians and Russians violated by attacking Aleppo and other areas controlled by the moderate opposition. It’s certain that Damascus’ allies will respect the status quo that existed before the last shelling. The second one will be an important message to the regime stipulating that if it rejects seriously negotiating with the opposition and rejects the concept of a political solution based on partnership, then it will also be subjected to becoming non-existent. It currently refuses all solutions and is stalling because it thinks the Russians and Iranians will eliminate the opposition by destroying their strongholds and therefore it does not have to accept any political solution where it makes concessions.

It’s historically proven that the Syrian regime responds to serious threats and not to verbal threats of the kind we have become used to hearing from the US secretary of state

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

How will Damascus’ allies react if the regime is targeted? Damascus’ allies have committed every single prohibited act in the past. They did not respect any international or bilateral agreements or regional interests or security considerations. They subjugated the Turks, the Jordanians and the Gulf and humiliated the Americans. All this happened under the Obama administration’s nose. If Obama’s administration carries out one big operation, it may restore its reputation and legacy and it will allow the new administration to enter the White House in a stronger negotiating position with the Assad regime and its allies.

It’s historically proven that the Syrian regime responds to serious threats and not to verbal threats of the kind we have become used to hearing from the US secretary of state. When the regime of late President Hafez al-Assad went too far in its support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party led by Abdullah Ocalan, the Turks moved their tanks toward the border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, threatening to invade Syria. Within two days, Assad handed over Ocalan to the Turks through an African country and closed the Kurdish party’s camps. When current President Bashar al-Assad ignored Israeli warnings about arming Hezbollah in South Lebanon, Israel broke the sound barrier with a jet right above his secret vacation residence and this repaired the relationship between the two parties.

If the regime in Damascus thinks - for even a second - that it’s threatened by an American attack, it will alter its behavior as well as the behavior of its Iranian ally. The Russians do not want to confront the Americans to protect a worn-out system at a time when they are cautiously dealing with Ukraine’s crisis, which is the more important issue to them.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 4, 2016.



Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.