The Times of Israel reports: A weakened Bashar Assad is preferable for Syria and the whole region, to a takeover by rebel forces increasingly ruled by Islamic extremists, Israeli officials said overnight Friday-Saturday.
“Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there,” said one senior intelligence officer to the London-based Times.
A defense official said Israel had originally thought too little of Assad’s ability to maintain control of his country despite an increasingly bloody and gruesome two-year war. “We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” he told the Times.
Suspicions of increasing Islamic influence over rebels forces have been growing for some time, with evidence mounting that al-Qaida- and Salafi-linked groups are gaining power among the forces.