Report: Israel prefers Assad survive Syria conflict

'Times of London' quotes Israeli officer as saying Israel prefers "the devil it knows."

Syrian President Assad gives 'Sunday Times' interview 390 (photo credit: Screenshot Sky News)
Syrian President Assad gives 'Sunday Times' interview 390
(photo credit: Screenshot Sky News)
The scenario that Syrian President Bashar Assad would survive his country's bloody conflict, yet would hold a lesser role, would be preferred by Israel in contrast to a takeover by rebel factions with Islamic extremist inklings, The Times of London cited an Israeli official as saying Friday.
“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,” one senior Israeli intelligence officer was quoted as saying.
A weakened, but intact Assad regime would be preferable for Syria and the Middle East, the Times reported intelligence sources as saying. 
The report quoted another defense official who told the Times that Assad's tenacity had been underestimated.
“We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” the source said.
The situation that Assad survives, maintaining power in Damascus and in the corridors to the large coastal cities, would entail the breaking up of Syria into three separate states.
The remarks come amid current differing opinions within the defense establishment about what to expect in Syria and what outcome for its northern neighbor would benefit Israel.
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Another senior defense official claimed recently in closed conversations that Israel has erred in its estimates of how quickly Assad would fall from power in Syria.
According to the official, Israel has "underestimated" Assad's strength and the inner life force of the Syrian regime.
The defense establishment however, maintains its view stressing that all scenarios are possible in Syria and a change in policy by the West that would lead to military intervention could tip the scales toward one side or the other. 
 Ben Caspit and Lior Novik contributed to this report.