Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is digging in his feet once again, declaring to a Russian media outlet that he would not step down as President of Syria unless the people of Syria wished him to do so, which he claims has not been made clear yet.
Even whilst currently being the clear frontrunner for the worlds most notorious dictator, Assad appeared firm in his commitment to the office he currently holds. Though elections in Syria have been heavily criticised for their perceived lack of legitimacy, including ones to elect Assad, he cites those elections as one of the reasons he will not step down. The Syrian President went on to give his philosophy on when a leader should and should not go, saying, “As for the president, he comes to power with the people’s assent through elections, and if he leaves, he leaves if the people demand it, not because of the judgment of the United States, the U.N. Security Council, the Geneva Conference or the Geneva Communique.”
In the midst of a civil war that has now claimed over 200,000 Syrian lives, and created a humanitarian crisis on a second continent with Syrian refugees fleeing en masse to Europe, Assad rarely makes public appearances for fear of assassination attempts, and interviews with the leader or anyone in his regime are hard to come by. Complicating matters for the international community, Assad has not, at least publicly, committed to helping in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State, even while IS targets in Syria are pounded from the skies. With the United States, Canada and Turkey joining Arab allies in the region such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to launch airstrikes on the Islamic State, there is a clear commitment to destroying the Syrian affiliate despite any objections from an Assad-led government. With France and Australia recently announcing they will contribute to airstrikes within Syria going forward, the international community may be building an even stronger case for how ill-equipped the Assad government is to handle the group within its own borders.
Despite these efforts, Assad was sure to get a parting shot on the U.S.-led coalition in the interview, claiming that these strikes have done nothing to stop the expansion of IS in Iraq and Syria. Given all of the recent negative attention Russia has garnered for its unabashed support for the regime in Syria, the international community may finally be ready to push harder for a more aggressive and timely solution to the Assad government, such as regime change. The destruction being wreaked within Syria is undeniable; with the combination of a dictator violating clear, and well-established international laws regarding his use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs on the people of Syria, and the most well-equipped and well organized terrorist group the world has ever seen operating heavily within the same borders, Syria has become the most dangerous place on Earth. Surely even the most delusional of men would understand his role in this? Then again, as the war has persisted for 4 and a half years, the world can safely stop expecting any rationality from Bashar al-Assad.