Bashar al Assad's best bet for leaving Syria before he gets killed by angry citizenry like Col. Muammar Qaddafi looks like exile, but finding somewhere for him to go may be tricky. Reuters reported on Thursday that if he can be persuaded to relinquish power, U.S. and U.N. officials are looking to exile as increasingly the best plan to get Assad out of Damascus and away from the protesters.
Talking (or forcing) Assad into stepping down is sort of a separate issue, but the U.S. insists it'll happen one way or another. And when it does, he's going to need to go somewhere. Three countries have reportedly offered to take him, but the unnamed Western officials who spoke to Reuters wouldn't say which ones. Historically, the path to exile can take some quirky turns, as this Qaddafi-related graphic from Good magazine shows. For now, the question of where to relocate Assad is an open one, so let's take a look at the likeliest candidates:
United Arab Emirates: We'll start with the only option named in the Reuters report. Though it doesn't explain why U.A.E. would want him, the story said "one official said the United Arab Emirates might be among those open to the idea." But the U.A.E., which the Associated Press in February called a "luxury refuge" for "political fugitives in exile" has a history of taking in political exiles, and several have cycled through of late: "The roster of Emirate exiles includes former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the late Pakistani ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto and a turncoat Chechen warlord who was gunned down by a killer with a gold-plated pistol." The Gulf state has been a sharp critic of Assad recently, and was one of the bloc of countries that pulled its people from the Arab League's monitoring mission in Syria, with foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed saying "There is no doubt that the task of the monitors is getting more difficult every day because we do not see a decline in acts of killings." But it might still allow him to join its rank of exiles if only to end the conflict in Syria.