All countries agree that the group that calls itself the Islamic State (while still usually being called by its former acronym, ISIS, by most U.S. media outlets) is bad. But they disagree about what the alternative to them is. Unfortunately the least bad option is the Assad government
Yes, Assad is a “bad guy”, but so was Saddam in Iraq and Gaddafi in Libya. And at least in hindsight most of us would recognice that toppling them was a mistake. The problem is that no viable secular alternative outside of Kurdish areas exists. The only options in Syria’s Arab parts is al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing the Nusra front and its allies which controls large parts of western Syria, and the Islamic State. The Kurdish groups have proven themselves quite valiant and effective (aided by Western air strikes) in defending Kurdish areas, but they are also indifferent to the situation in the Arab parts of Syria and won’t sacrifice any fighters to end al-Qaeda or Islamic State rule in those areas.
So what options do we have? Basically three: Assad, al-Qaeda and their Islamist allies and the Islamic State. But what about the “moderate rebels”? Well, when the United States instituted a training program for “moderate rebels” they were able to find a full 60 (no the lack of more “0:s” is not a typo, there was only 60) of them.
I wish that hadn’t been true, because as stated before, Assad is indeed a bad guy and him “staying in power” isn’t a good option. Nonetheless, the fact is that when he was in power over all of Syria, there was relative stability. And apart from the Kurds in the Kurdish areas, there really isn’t any viable secular alternative to him. The only realistic alternatives are the Nusra front and their islamist allies and the Islamic State.
And if Al-Qaeda and/or the Islamic State are able to conquer the Assad held areas, millions of Alawites (Assad’s own ethno-religious group) and Christians would be in great danger.