Calling Syria’s Assad regime “problematic” CIA director John Brennan said Friday that its “collapse” could create an even bigger problem by allowing jihadist groups like ISIS that are fighting in the country’s civil war to fill the vacuum left in Damascus. “It’s the policy of this administration that Assad is really not part of Syria’s future as we see it,” Brennan told Charlie Rose in a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. Brennan’s statement comes after Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this month, “military pressure particularly may be necessary” to remove Assad from power.
One the one hand, the Obama administration has a formal goal of seeing Assad replaced by new political leadership in Syria. On the other hand many in government see Assad's forces as a bulwark against the spread of ISIS and are wary of pushing too hard on Damascus given its backing from powerful foreign government’s like Russia and Iran. The U.S. and Russia may appear to be on opposite sides of the Syria dispute, but neither “wants to see a collapse of the government” Brennan said Friday. Given the rising power of jihadist groups in Syria like ISIS and the al Qadea affiliate Nusra Front, “the last thing we want to do is allow them to march in to Damascus,” Brennan said.
The only thing worse than removing Assad, Brennan suggested, would be removing him too soon.