Shouting in the dark

Syrian Presidency on April 28, 2014 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. (AFP PHOTO / HO / SYRIAN PRESIDENCY FACEBOOK)

The presidential election campaign now underway in Syria is serving as a field day for opponents of President Bashar Assad to criticize the poll and point out any number of questionable or objectionable aspects of the process.

For the most part, the opposition-in-exile National Coalition and a number of western countries backing it have been the principal sources of verbal assaults – talking about how the election is a “parody” or a “farce,” and complaining about the mere holding of an election in wartime conditions, with millions of people internally displaced or living as refugees outside the country.

None of these sides should be surprised by Assad’s intention to move ahead with a re-election at all costs. The same groups that are criticizing the election could just as easily ask themselves why Assad and his allies are able to proceed with the presidential poll.

The answer is because they have failed over the last three years to inflict any type of serious pressure on the regime and its allies. Wasn’t it obvious from the beginning that Assad and his supporters intended to do anything in order to defeat any possibility of reform? Their policies of leveling villages and towns with no regard for the killing of tens of thousands of Syrians, using every type of weapon and brutality imaginable, have been countered largely by verbal condemnations and empty ultimatums, but little else that is effective, whether politically or militarily.

For Western supporters of the opposition, the election should prompt them to ask themselves one simple question: Are they going to continue on the current path or look for serious ways to isolate Assad and make him irrelevant?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 29, 2014, on page 7.




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