Farce, sham, ploy, mockery – these were the words used by many in the international community to describe the vote on a new constitution that took place in Syria last Sunday [February 26]. The Syrian government claimed that almost 90 percent of voters approved the regime-sponsored draft.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that proceeding with balloting when the civilian population is under relentless assault by the regime’s tanks, guns and artillery was “absolutely cynical:”
“How could you possibly have any kind of a democratic process in conditions like that?”
Syria’s great friend and supporter in the Middle East, Iran, which provides Syria with equipment and personnel to repress the Syrian people, had a different reaction. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African countries Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the voting “signals the [Syrian] nation and government's will to implement reforms, create national unity, solidarity and return of peace and security," and congratulated the Syrian government on a successful referendum.
Reform, peace and civilian security, while touted in the new constitution, are not the real aims of the Syrian regime. UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe says that “well over 7500 people” have died since last March, when Syrian security forces began their vicious attacks against civilians protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly condemned the Syrian regime’s brutality, which she says has increased in the past few weeks.
On March 1, the U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed on a statement deploring the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and called on Damascus to grant "full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance." In the past, Russia and China had vetoed two Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government and calling for President Assad to step down.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that China, Russia and Iran “are the outliers in continuing to protect the Assad regime.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that such a stance is “clearly not on the side of the Syrian people.”
President Barack Obama said, “It is absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition; it is time for that regime to move on; and it is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government.”