Syria’s Sham Election Will Change Nothing

It goes without saying, but the elections now underway in Syria will have precisely zero effect on the conflict’s overall dynamics. This includes at the Security Council.

There are basically three priorities for Syria at the Security council.

The first is the quarantine of Syria’s chemical weapons. The most recent report from the Secretary General indicated that the June 30 final deadline for destruction of chemical weapons will not be met. Still, over 92% of Syria’s stockpiles have been taken out of the country. What remains are precursors that remain beyond the reach of the UN monitors because of security concerns.

The second is humanitarian access. The last big Security Council push on increasing humanitarian access to Syria occurred just before the Ukraine crisis exploded. Resolution 2139, passed unanimously in February, called for unfettered humanitarian access to Syria’s besieged populations. The situation improved for a short while, but has steadily deteriorated. Now, the humanitarian situation is as bad as it has ever been since the start of the civil war.  

The third are the international diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.  This is also at a standstill. The joint UN/Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi resigned last month after it became increasingly clear that his efforts were futile. So long as Russia continues to provide diplomatic cover to the Assad regime at the Security Council, there is no meaningful way to compel the Syrian government to enter into good faith negotiations with the opposition.

The elections today will do nothing to change these fundamental dynamics; the re-affirmation of Assad’s grip on state power through sham elections will not sway Moscow or Washington one way or the other.  Meanwhile, the situation on the ground is getting worse by the day.  There are some 2.8 million refugees, 6.5 million internally displaced, and 9.5 million people in need of humanitarian relief. Nothing about the elections today suggests that those numbers will decrease anytime soon.