BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria is wagering that Islamic State's push to reshape the Middle East will eventually force a hostile West to deal with President Bashar al-Assad as the only way to tackle the threat.
While Assad's forces escalate their fight with Islamic State militants in the Syrian civil war, the United States is staging air strikes on the same group across the frontier in Iraq. This, along with United Nations sanctions targeting the Sunni Muslim militants in both Syria and Iraq, has strengthened Assad's belief that the United States and Europe are coming around to his way of viewing the conflict, according to sources familiar with Syrian government thinking.
Officials in the Western governments which have backed the uprising against Assad dismiss the idea of rapprochement.
Syria is not Iraq, they say.
But growing Western concern about Islamic State is stirring debate about Syria policy. More than three years into the civil war, the moderate Syrian opposition that the West hoped would prevail has been eclipsed by radical Islamists.
The Damascus government, already heartened by visits from European intelligence agencies reported by Syrian officials earlier this year, sees the war on Islamic State as opening up new possibilities for engagement...