As the war and unrest in Syria carry on, a constant question has been whether or not Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president/ dictator that inherited power from his father will step down. A common talking point is that he must step down for there to be any hope of peace in Syria. Having Assad remain in power could be less dangerous than a power vacuum in the country after Assad is gone.

Don’t feel bad for him

Assad does not warrant a large amount of empathy or sympathy. Assad is not a “good guy.” He inherited rule over Syria in a dynastic style transfer of power from his father Hafez al-Assad who ruled the country from 1971–2000. Bashar al-Assad has been accused of human rights abuses of political dissidents by human rights’ organizations. This is not a defense of Bashar al-Assad’s policies.


We know what could happen in Syria. No one wants what happened next door In Iraq to happen in Syria. We know the chaos that was the 2003 United States (US) invasion of Iraq and ousting of the Ba’ath party, the Syrian version of which is currently led by Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has divisions

If Assad steps down, there are plenty of factions within Syria that would be right there to fight for control. Syria is full of different groups.

Religion: Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%

Ethnic Groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurdish, Armenian, and other 9.7%

Factions in the civil war

The BBC did a concise and effective summary of different factions fighting in Syria. It is extremely complicated. If Assad were to step down, who would run Syria and how would they agree?

Would the government be allied with Iran, Russia, the US? Would the government be majority Sunni, Shia, or Kurd? Would there be more violence instead of negotiations?

It would incredibly complex and with the chance of horrific violence if all of these different groups that have guns, after the civil war somehow ends, then begin to fight for taking the place of Bashar al-Assad. This fight could be worse than anything al-Assad would do after this war ends.

There are no nice answers in this debate. What Assad would do after the war would be bad. He is not going to let this war go unpunished. Assad and his government would not let this war go without consequence. But if Assad leads Syria, he would want Syria to have some sense of normalcy to it. Syria has to rebuild and Assad would know the need for Syria to be rebuilt.

Concessions from Assad should, of course, be demanded, one concession could hopefully be elections, but keeping Assad staying in power could prevent the violence that a power vacuum in Syria would create. Syrian factions fighting to replace Assad could be more violent and last longer than any actions Assad would take after the war is over in Syria.

The Danger of a Power Vacuum in Syria
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