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UN General Assembly vote reflects shift in Syrian public opinion

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UN General Assembly vote
reflects shift in Syrian public opinion

Franklin Lamb
May 18, 2013

H oms, Syria -- 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 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 (gasoline), 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 announcements 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 YouTube
by jihadist elements who these days come from nearly three dozen countries,
paid for and indoctrinated by enemies of both Syria's Arab nationalism and
deep-rooted 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. Also, the well-known fact now
being admitted by western diplomats is that the opposition militias,
essentially mafia outfits, are hopelessly fractured, turning against one another and
beginning to resemble their fellow jihadists from Libya, Chechnya and other
areas of this part of the world.

Opinion in Damascus and surrounding areas I visited this past week,
confirms my 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 the Syrian
public, 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 neighborhoods.

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.

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 that what is happening in
Syria is due to foreign support of terrorism, the spread of extremism and
incitement, and rejection 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 noted 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 groups in Syria,
just as it had foiled a UN release to condemn the attempted assassination of
the Syrian Premier.

After Qatar's ambassador spoke in favor of the resolution his country drafted
(and re-drafted several time), al-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

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." This
after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had just thanked Qatar for its role
in the release of the UN Peacekeepers, whose kidnapping may in fact have
been planned and paid for by the Qatari government.

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."

Rather a diplomatic victory for Syria's UN Ambassador in the run-up to the
Geneva II conference being organized by the White House and the Kremlin.

* "Ban Thanking Qatar for Freeing of Peacekeepers UNexplained, Others UNnamed"
by Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, May 13, 2013   

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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