In 2014, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, secured another 7 year term in office after crushing his competitors by a vast majority.
With record turnout of 73.42% despite attacks on polling locations by rebels, the outcome was still brought into question and scrutinized by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who did not believe that having elections during a civil war allowed for a free and fair election. Western media had their own interpretations while some 30 nations had quite another.
The election was and still is considered to be a “sham” only administered to bolster and entrench the current President, but we see that the rebel groups absolutely refused to participate in the election despite the 2012 referendum that allowed for opposition groups to run. Several groups even going so far as to shell polling locations. Criticisms were made that only government controlled areas were “allowed to vote” when in fact the rebels boycotted and deterred voting either by force or other means.
Conflicting narratives and conspiracy theories aside let us compare this to another case and remember that the United States is no stranger to involvement in Syria. Joseph Massad, professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, has come out and said that the 1949 Syrian coup was staged by the newly formed CIA and the current situation is precisely the same.
The current strategy (if we call it that) has a deep comparison to another case in South America. In 1984, the Latin American Studies Association ran an independent study on the elections of Nicaragua under Sandinista control that were generally considered to be unfair or rigged. As they showed at the time, opposition groups (namely the Contra leader Arturo Cruz) were compelled by foreign powers (namely Washington) to boycott the election so as to create a perception that the current government was illegitimate and authoritarian.
The Nicaraguan government at the time under the control of the FSLN (Sandinistas), a leftist party unwilling to submit to American authority, were under constant attack by terrorist opposition groups funded by the Reagan Administration along the prevailing policy of the Cold War summed up nicely by then Secretary of State George Shultz. Widely acknowledged at this time was the utilization of white propaganda to bolster support for the terrorist groups. This remains the strategy that has lead American foreign policy even into the present day in the context of the Arab Spring.
You can read more on the Contra scandal in Amy Fried’s Muffled Echoes: Oliver North and the Politics of Public Opinion. Historian, Greg Grandin, argues further in his works including A Century of Revolution that political revolutions in the South American region were orchestrated by the United States to expand its hemispheric hegemony. Democratic Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders, concurs on this issue. With a U.S. foreign policy that has hardly evolved, how can we disregard any idea that this might be the same case yet again in Syria?
The next installation of the Al-Masdar podcast will address this matter with our exclusive interview with Virginia State Senator, Richard Black.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al-Masdar News.
Brad Blankenship is a guest contributor to Al-Masdar News and is a political activist and student of Philosophy and Political Science at Northern Kentucky University.
You can follow him on Twitter: @BradAlMasdar