In the beginning of the Syrian Civil War the Western powers supported the Syrian opposition on principles of democracy and self-determination. However 6 years later it's now clear that most of the opposition is either worse than the Assad regime or far from being loyal to democratic form of government.

So why don't western nations support Assad instead of the rebel groups? Wouldn't it help end the war and end the humanitarian crisis?

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    You've fallen into a common misconception. The Wikipedia page on the Syrian conflict says, right up front, there's 4 separate factions in Syria, each holding part of the country. This isn't Assad vs Isis, mostly Isis is fighting Assad's opposition, who the US backed. In part, because of geography, but also, in part, because Assad buys oil from Isis.. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War
    – userLTK
    Apr 8, 2017 at 17:53
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    "Worse" than someone who has shown a repeated willingness to both gas and bomb civilian populations is a subjective position, without a doubt. Apr 10, 2017 at 16:56
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    @PoloHoleSet So it is necessarily worse when Assad gasses and bombs people than when the opposition forces do it?
    – J Doe
    Apr 11, 2017 at 18:53
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    @JDoe - not sure where you get that from, since I never stated anything like that. Assad gassing and bombing civilians is certainly worse than others not doing it, which is the current state of affairs. Nice try, though. Apr 11, 2017 at 19:06
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    @PoloHoleSet Except there's no evidence of Assad gassing his people. Nor would that make any sense when he was already winning the war. And you gotta love the irony. 9/11, never forgive, never forget. Yet here we are again arming, training and funding terrorists. They even gave the terrorists an Academy Award. It's hilarious and tragic at the same time. Sep 4, 2020 at 12:57

5 Answers 5


Western powers (or any powers in fact) do not just support a side in war because they like their ideology.

War is business. As a person or a party, showing public support for one side in a war can increase your political power, or mean political suicide. And if you bring in military support, you start bleeding money very quickly.

Assad has been vilified by western media (some say for good reason, but that's irrelevant in the context of this answer), and thus backing Assad would be an unpopular proposition. It would likely be political suicide.

If you look at it by nation, the European nations aren't eager to go to war. Going to war in order to aid an unpopular faction is very likely to end your political career in the next election. Earlier than that if you're unlucky.

Now look at the one Western nation that might join this war, the US. The president is suspected to have colluded with Russia to do some very bad stuff. If that president now spends a ton of US money to support a "villain" who's best known for being a pal of the Russian president, his career would implode.

What you can get instead of support for Assad is various statements of acceptance of continued Assad reign. That's something we've seen repeatedly before the Sarin incident. An example of what that did look like is this statement by the US ambassador to the UN from March 2017:

You pick and choose your battles and when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out...

Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No. What we are going to focus on is putting the pressure in there so that we can start to make a change in Syria...

We can't necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did...Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria."


This is essentially as far a western leaders could go in supporting Assad without jeopardizing their career.

  • I'd note that the Russian collusion story has been thoroughly debunked by now, as was the theory of Russia affecting the 2016 elections. Might deserve an edit to avoid fake news. Mar 1, 2023 at 20:43
  • Daily Wire is a far-right propaganda outlet. Perhaps that was not true in 2017. Please consider using a different source. Mar 6, 2023 at 16:01

So why don't western nations support Assad instead of the rebel groups?

Assad is not a client of any Western nation. Syria receives aid via Iran and Russia; why would Western nations support him?

Wouldn't it help end the war and end the humanitarian crisis?

I don't understand this question within the context of the first question. Assad is not the cause of the broader humanitarian crisis which exists in the Middle East. If one is looking to solve the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, there are a lot of threads to unravel prior to a discussion about support of Assad versus regime change. You might start with an analysis of energy and water supplies.

Assad's a bad guy, but he's not the main problem.


It's hard to answer this question without being opinion based. My take is this:

U.S main objective is to get rid of Assad. They want this because Syria is a Russian ally, and the only Mediterranean naval base Russia has is located there. Syria is just another pawn in the U.S game for complete global hegemony.

Yes it would help to end the war if U.S cooperated with Assad. But since fighting terrorism is not U.S main objective, they have little interest of doing that. The Syrian people, and the European tax payers, will keep suffering.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:06

Western nations cannot support a government that barrel-bombs its civilian population, obliterates hospitals and than uses chemical weapons on top of it despite many international treaties not to use such weapons at all, let alone against civilians. If we, as humans populating Earth, decided not to use certain weapons, we better enforce it the best we can.

If it was just about Assad undermining a democracy, there would be diplomatic efforts to persuade him to step down, but not much beyond that. There are many examples where democracies turned authoritarian and US did not engage much beyond expressing its dislikes.

The fact other factions are not necessarily pro-democracy or ideologically remote from western ideals doesn't give a war criminal free reign.

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    You mean western nations like U.S that bombs hospitals, uses chemical weapons like napalm, or that commits war crimes by attacking other nations in clear violation of the U.N charter? The level of hypocrisy is quite outstanding. Apr 9, 2017 at 16:50
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    Even if US is at times hypocritical and it's engagement record isn't always exemplary (although napalm hasn't been used in quite a long time) it doesn't give Assad or Putin the right to be inhumane war criminals.
    – Alex Pakka
    Apr 9, 2017 at 16:59
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    @AlexPakka, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia. These destabilized countries have become heaven for terrorism and let's not forget the thousands of not hundreds of thousands of civilians including men, women, and children killed in US bombings, airstrikes, drone attacks. As they say, "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone." I down voted as this is primarily opinionated with no facts or citations. There's always two sides to every story.
    – Noah
    Apr 9, 2017 at 17:15
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    @Noah Three Sides: their side, the other side, and the truth. Apr 9, 2017 at 17:33
  • -1 Western nations have and support all manner of bad guys and have been the bad guys themselves more then once, recently. No need to reiterate other comments. In addition, the decision not to use certain weapons can only be made voluntarily by each country. For example a country that agrees to no longer use chemical weapons joins the OPCW.
    – Ivana
    Aug 26, 2022 at 12:53

So why don't Western nations support Assad instead of the rebel groups? Wouldn't it help end the war and the humanitarian crisis?

It is because the point of starting that war was never about ending the humanitarian crisis, or eradicating ISIS. It was about getting rid of Assad and taking out the naval base of the Russians.

With that in mind, supporting Assad makes absolutely zero sense.

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    How is this answer is not opinion based? Where are the references to clearly neutral sources supporting this answer? You are simply reciting propaganda. And yes, when western media gets the facts wrong I am all for providing evidence to the contrary. But let's try to stick to the facts, and at least clearly mark opinions.
    – Alex Pakka
    Apr 9, 2017 at 18:53
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    @AlexPakka How are not all answers to this question opinion based? How come you bash this one? Because you disagree with it perhaps? Apr 10, 2017 at 9:12
  • @dan-klasson At least I provided some references. But for this one, I cannot find any evidence western powers started this war to take out Russian naval base (wasn't much of a base either back then). In fact, on a contrary, by refusing to support the rebels, Obama made the situation worse for many civilians. But I agree, the top runner answer by Peter is a reasonably scientific and neutral one, has a substance and some references.
    – Alex Pakka
    Apr 10, 2017 at 13:54
  • @AlexPakka It's an opinion, not a fact. Apr 10, 2017 at 14:01

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