Bashar al-Assad is arguably a controversial figure. Essentially, either you hate him or love him. Furthermore, he seems to divide the international community; the United States of America and Europe are opposed to his ‘regime’ whilst Russia and China voice support for his government.
Opponents of the Syrian government have long called the Assad family reign a ‘2nd generation dynasty‘ and Bashar a ‘ruthless dictator‘. As most Arab countries, Syria has poor credibility in relations to human rights. For instance, Tadmur Prison, the notorious Syrian intelligence agency ‘Mukhabarat‘ and the so-called ‘shabiha‘ loyalist fighters have all been upheld by the opposition forces as reasons to depose Bashar al-Assad.
On the other hand, proponents have underlined that Assad is western educated, represents a secular government and has opened up the press since he gained power in 2000. Additionally, Bashar spearheaded reforms that transformed an oldschool Ba’ath party socialist economy into a vibrant somewhat capitalist country. Additionally, prior to the conflict, Bashar al-Assad seeked reconciliation with the West, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey.
Ironically, ISIS seems to split Assad’s antagonist crowd from his supporters:
The Syrian and Russian government have long claimed Turkey purchases stolen ISIS oil which is smuggled from the deserts of Syria. Furthermore, rebel co-operation with ISIS is upheld as a reason to prefer Bashar al-Assad over the opposition. For instance, the siege of Menagh Air Base in late 2013 featured the Free Syrian Army side-by-side with ISIS – both were besieging entrenched government troops. Also, many seemingly moderate rebels have defected to the Islamic State over the past year – this indicates the opposition fighters lack the secular democratic intentions which its leaders claim to uphold.
On the other hand, opponents of Assad claim the Syrian government buys oil from ISIS. Many seemingly credible media outlets have reported this story; including Fox News, The Daily Beast and Business Insider. Those who seek the removal of Assad have also claimed the Syrian Air Force intentionally avoided Jihadists early on as to radicalize the opposition and easily gain more international support for the Syrian government.
In all fairness, it would be wrong to claim Assad is an angel. However, with the remaining moderate Syrian opposition on the decline – the current choice seems to be between ISIS and Assad. This decision does not represent pest or cholera; but rather, pest or a bad cough.