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Josh Rogin

Obama No Longer Seems Sure Assad Must Go

Some White House advisers are pushing to keep the dictator in place.
Thinking again?

Thinking again?

Photographer: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

In his prime-time address Sunday night, President Barack Obama listed the diplomatic process on the Syria war, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, as one of the five most important things the administration is doing to fight the Islamic State. Yet behind the scenes, there is growing schism within the administration over whether ending that civil war requires eliminating its cause: the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

And there is increasing evidence that Obama is siding with those advisers who feel that demanding Assad's ouster is holding back broader efforts to defeat the Islamic State. After years of insisting that Assad had to go, last month Obama spoke of a political process in which "we can start looking at Mr. Assad choosing not run." From the Oval Office on Sunday, he made no mention of the dictator whatsoever.