UN General Assembly Vote Reflects Shift in Syrian Public Opinion
by Franklin Lamb
| Homs, Syria
May 21, 2013
It’s not hard to find critics of the Assad government in the Governorate (Muhafazat) of Homs or for that matter, to
varying degrees in Syria’s other thirteen Governorates according to Syrian analysts interviewed by this observer and
reports from human rights groups including lawyers representing dissidents in Syria. However, after nearly 27 months of
turmoil, the public opinion pendulum is markedly shifting back in support of the current regime.
One international political result was registered at the United Nations this past week when a US-Qatari-Saudi drafted
General Assembly Resolution that was designed to increase pressure on the Assad government stumbled badly and fell far
short of what the Saudi Ambassador to the UN and other US allies predicted would be an overwhelming vote in favor.
Effect of shift in popular opinion in Syria
Over the past four or five months it has become increasingly clear that public opinion in Syria is shifting for reasons
that include, but are not limited to the following:
While inflation at the grocery stores in probably the most common complaint heard from a cross-section of society here,
the population is adapting somewhat to higher prices and it appears to credit the government for efforts, some
successful, to soften the impact of the illegal US-led sanctions that target this same Syrian population for purely
political reasons to achieve regime change.
While Syrians demand dignity and freedom from oppressive security forces and an end to corruption, as all people do in
this region and beyond, they are witnessing a return to near normalcy with respect to supplies of electricity, benzene,
mazout fuel oil, bus schedules, schools, and a host of public services such as garbage collection, street sweeping, park
maintenance, and sympathetic traffic cops who are rather understanding of short-cuts taken by drivers and pedestrians
due to “the situation”.
In addition, public service announcement and even text messages demonstrate that the government is aware of the degree
of suffering among the population, accept partial blame, and are focusing on remedial measure and crucially, ending the
crisis with its horrific bloodshed. One observes here a definite trend of the pulling together of a high percentage of
Syrians who share a very unique history and culture and who are deeply connected to their country and who are
increasingly repelled by the continuing killing from all sides including the recent barbarisms of body mutilations and
summary executions videotaped and broadcast on Utube by jihadist elements. The latter who these days come from nearly
three dozen countries, paid for and indoctrinated by enemies of Syria’s Arab nationalism and deep rooted pillar of
resistance to the occupation of Palestine.
In addition, many among Syria’s 23 million citizens, who initially supported the uprising following government reaction
to event in Deraa in March 2011, now have serious second thoughts about who exactly would replace the current
government. Events in Syria are also making plain that the army is still loyal to the Assad government, and according to
Jane’s Defense Weekly, is actually gaining experience and strength as well as the well-known fact that as western
diplomats are admitting, the “opposition militias” are hopelessly fractured, turning one another, many essential mafia
outfits, and beginning to resemble their fellow jihadists from Libya, Chechnya and in between.
Opinion in Damascus and surrounding areas visited this past week, confirms this observers experience the past five
months of a sharp and fairly rapid shift in opinion that now strongly favors letting the Syrian people themselves
decide, without outside interference, whether the Assad regime will stay, and indeed, whether, the Baathist party will
continue to represent majority opinion, not through wanton violence but rather via next June’s election. Many express
confidence in the run up to this critical vote, noting that the election will be closely monitored by the international
community to assure fairness.
Perhaps aided by the current glorious May weather, a certain optimism, that was more scarce in the past, pervades many
For different reasons, foreign powers, including the USA, Turkey, European Union, the UK Jordan and even the majority
population of the six Gulf Cooperation Council family run countries, according to Pew Research, are shifting their
earlier positions which were based in part of the US administration, NATO, and Israeli assurances that the Assad
government would surely fall quickly, “A matter of days, not weeks” US President Obama promised. That was two years ago.
As noted above, this trend has accelerated since the UN General Assembly vote with last weeks which did not go as
planned on the biased and politicized non-binding draft resolution on Syria.
The public reaction in Syria and across the Middle East is substantially that the “Friends of Syria” non-binding GA
resolution contradicts the reality on the ground, backs terrorism in Syria and hinders the international efforts to help
achieve a political solution to the crisis in this country. Only 107 states voted in favor of the resolution, 12 against
while 59 countries, mostly from Africa and Latin America, abstained from voting.
One reason the vote fell short of the 130 favorable votes that the basically same resolution garnered the past two times
is that it is widely viewed as ignoring the crimes and atrocities committed by the armed jihadist groups in Syria and
the flow of thousands of international terrorists backed by the West, the Gulf states and Turkey who provide them with
weapons and money. According to the Russian delegate, backed by several other speakers, “the resolutions ignores all the
terrorists’ heinous crimes and denounces what it called the escalation of the attacks by the Syrian government”.
Afterward one Latin American Permanent Representative told Inner City Press that the count would have been below 100 if
not for some “last minute arm-twisting.” As it turned out, 15 countries didn’t vote at all, opting to “get coffee,” as
one African Permanent Representative put it before the vote.
Syria’s Ambassador al-Jaafari exposes a hoax in the Gulf
Syria’s permanent Envoy to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said his country regretted the adoption of a biased and unbalanced
UN resolution, thanking the countries that rejected the resolution “for their responsible positions which support the UN
principles and the international law articles”. He noted that the decrease in the number of countries that voted in
favor and the increase of numbers of those who abstained from voting indicates the growing international understanding
of the reality of what is happening in Syria due to the foreign interference, support of terrorism, the spread of
extremism and incitement besides the refusal of dialogue.
“We rely on the UN and its member states to support Syria and its people against the culture of extremism and terrorism,
and to encourage the comprehensive national dialogue to peacefully resolve the Syrian crisis.” he said. In a statement
released after the vote on the UN draft resolution on Syria, al-Jaafari He said that the French delegation had foiled
the issuance of a number of UN press releases to condemn the terrorist acts committed by al-Qaeda-linked armed groups in
Syria which claimed the lives of thousands of Syrians as it foiled a UN release to condemn the attempt of assassination
of the Syrian Premier.
After Qatar’s ambassador spoke in favor of the resolution his country drafted (and re-drafted several time), Ja’afari
revealed that there existed an e-mail, from the representative of the Syrian opposition given to Syria’s embassy in
Qatar, showing Qatar’s involvement in the kidnapping of UN peacekeepers by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. He read out a
phone number from the e-mail as several Gulf diplomats grimaced or scowled, and three left the Chamber.
Visibly stunned, the UK Permanent Representative Lyall Grant called the whole matter “deeply confusing”. Another
Permanent Representative, from a militia contributing country, said that if true, it’s “very problematic.” The reasons
include the fact that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had just thanked Qatar for its roles in the release of the UN
Peacekeepers the earlier kidnapping of whom the Qatari government may have planned, paid for and executed.
Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky said he would not disclose any more about the “negotiations to free
the peacekeepers or who was behind the crime.”
Score a major diplomatic victory for Syria’s UN Ambassador al-Jaafari as public opinion shifts in favor of the Assad
government and both pressure as well as optimism build in the run-up to the Geneva II conference being organized by the
White House and the Kremlin.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon.