Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2012

Post-Asad Syria: Opportunity or Quagmire?

Patrick Clawson

February 2012

Institute for National Strategic Studies


U.S. policy toward the continued rule of Syrian President Bashar al- Asad is partly based on the impact his rule has had in Syria. Asad’s fall might not bring improvement for the Syrian people. But the argument that Asad, odious as he may be, provides stability now looks less and less convincing. Whether Asad stays or falls, the current Syrian unrest could have profound implications on the Middle East in at least four ways: the impact on Iran, Asad’s closest strategic partner; the perception of the power of the United States and its allies; the stability of neighboring states; and the impact on Israel. The more Asad falls on hard times, the more Tehran has to scramble to prevent damage to its image with the “Arab street” and to its close ally, Lebanese Hizballah. Asad’s overthrow is by no means assured, and U.S. instruments to advance that objective are limited. The U.S. Government decision to call for his overthrow seems to have rested on a judgment that the prospects for success were good and the payoff in the event of success would be high.