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Three elections, three reactions: Ukraine, Egypt and Syria

By Farhang Jahanpour (first published by TFF Associates & Themes Blog)

On Friday 27 June, Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko signed a trade and economic pact with the European Union. It was the same deal that his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, was prepared to sign in November 2013 provided that he could also maintain economic links with Russia, but he eventually backed out from signing it due to US and EU insistence that he had to choose between the two.

That event led to violent street demonstrations that forced Yanukovych to flee, pushing his troubled country towards upheaval and a virtual civil war.

On Thursday 26 June, President Obama requested $500 million from Congress to train and arm what the White House called "appropriately vetted" members of the Syrian opposition to fight against President Bashar Assad.

This is despite the fact that the insurgents fighting in Syria have morphed into Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and even into ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Sham or greater Syria that has overrun parts of both Syria and Iraq and has been even disowned by Al-Qaeda for being too violent!

A week earlier, during a tour of the Middle East, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with the new Egyptian President, the former Army Chief, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, pledging American help and support for his government. Officials accompanying Kerry on the trip told reporters that Washington had quietly restored all but about 78 million dollars of the 650 million dollars of US aid to Egypt earlier this month.

Kerry told reporters in Cairo after meeting Sisi that he was "absolutely confident" that all of the aid would soon be restored. (1) Washington has provided Cairo with an average of about 1.3 million dollars in military aid annually over the past three decades as part of the Camp David Accord signed by the late President Muhammad Anwar Sadat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David under President Jimmy Carter.

As it happens, there have been elections in all the three countries in June, and it is useful to study the circumstances surrounding those elections and the West's reactions to those elections.

Ukraine

In order to understand the problems in Ukraine, one has to go back to the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the onward march of the West and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in former Soviet territories. Although NATO was originally formed in 1949 to counter the forces of the then Warsaw Pact and logically should have ceased to exist after the collapse of that pact, nevertheless, its operations have extended not only in Europe but to places even as far away as Afghanistan.

Despite the promises that were made to Mikhail Gorbachev, not to expand NATO "one inch to the east", we saw not only the unification of the two parts of Germany, but the incorporation of nearly all East European states into NATO. (2)

In 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the organization. Another expansion came in 2004 with the accession of seven Central and East European countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, pushing NATO right to Russia's borders.

Albania and Croatia joined in April 2009, and other countries are in the pipeline.

Then came the "Orange Revolution" from November 2004 to January 2005 in the wake of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election that was allegedly marred by massive corruption. The Orange Revolution, accompanied by mass protests, helped bring to power pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko who defeated his rival Viktor Yanukovych in a repeat run-off election.

It is generally accepted that the supporters of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, as well as other "velvet revolutions" in other East European countries, were funded and trained by Western governments and sympathizers.

According to the Guardian, in the case of the Orange Revolution, foreign donors included the US State Department, the USAID, and a number of right-wing and Neocon-controlled NGOs. (3) However, Yushchenko's popularity was short-lived and Yanukovych took his revenge and was elected president in 2010 after the Central Election Commission and international observers declared that the presidential election was fairly conducted.

The latest troubles in Ukraine started on 21 November 2013, when the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended preparations for signing an "Association Agreement" with the European Union, which would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine's economy with discounted natural gas.

That decision led to massive protests accompanied by attacks by armed groups on the police and government officials in many parts of Ukraine, especially in Maidan in Kiev. Western sources blamed the violence mainly on the police and government forces, but a leaked phone call between Estonia's foreign minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton revealed that in fact the snipers loyal to opposition forces had fired on the protestors. In that conversation Urmas Paet said: "All the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people in the street, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides." (4)

The violent protests led to the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych, and the removal of his government by the parliament in February. It should be noted that three days before Yanukovych left the country, he and German, French and Polish foreign ministers acting as EU representatives reached a deal, which they said would settle the crisis. (5)

However, violence that had killed dozens of people escalated and Yanukovych was forced to flee. Meanwhile, the US expressed renewed outrage over the continuing violence and Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington had started "implementing sanctions through travel bans on Ukrainians responsible for the violence".

The West supported the anti-government rebellion in Ukraine and described it as a popular revolution. Many Western leaders, including German and French foreign ministers, Senator John McCain, the secretary general of NATO, and the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland joined the crowds and encouraged them in their anti-state protests.

A taped conversation between Nuland and the US Ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt has revealed how closely US officials have been involved in regime change in Ukraine. The conversation shows that there are still many so-called "liberal interventionists" among US officials, and that US foreign policy is still dominated by many neocons who continue to harbor memories of the Cold War, treating Russia very much as if it were the former Soviet Union. (6)

Nuland also revealed that she wanted to make use of the United Nations to legitimize U.S. action and "glue this thing, to have the UN glue it." She told the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine "When I talked to Jeff Feltman this morning he had a new name for the UN guy..." who would be the person to "glue this thing". Incidentally, Jeff Feltman served as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador to Lebanon, and in the Embassy in Tel Aviv, etc. before joining the UN.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the conversation was that it revealed how U.S. officials see themselves as entitled to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and decide their form of government. Nuland even named the person that she wanted to rule Ukraine after the fall of Yanukovych. "Yats is the guy," Nuland told Pyatt. "He's got the economic experience, the governing experience. He's the guy you know." By "Yats," Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister - and who was committed to harsh austerity.

Although the events in Ukraine were ostensibly about membership of the EU, American officials were in the driving seat and in Nuland's words, "F... the EU". (7)

All this did not come cheap. Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that to help Ukraine achieve "its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion." She said the U.S. goal was to take "Ukraine into the future that it deserves," by which she meant into the West's orbit and away from Russia's. (8)

After Yanukovych's departure, clashes continued and intensified. The Crimean government supported Yanukovych, condemned the Kiev protests and urged the Crimeans to strengthen ties with Russia. After being part of the Ottoman Empire for a few centuries, in 1783 Crimea was conquered by Russia and became a part of the Russian Empire and later part of Soviet Russia.

In 1954, the Crimean Oblast was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR, which was then part of the Soviet Union. Following pro-Russian demonstrations in March 2014, the Russian Federation annexed Crimea back to Russia after a referendum in Crimea in favor of union with Russia, a move that has been rejected by the Ukrainian government and Western countries.

In the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine, separatist protests escalated into an insurgency early in April 2014, and masked gunmen took control of several of the region's government buildings and towns. Ukrainian forces attacked the area and the clashes resulted in hundreds of casualties. Serhiy Taruta, governor of Donetsk, suggested a referendum be held on 15 June at the same time as the potential second round of the election in Donesk to see whether the people in the region would like to remain part of Ukraine or declare their independence.

The referendum would address the decentralization of political power, potentially giving regions a greater say in their own affairs, but the central government rejected the offer.

Presidential elections were held in Ukraine on 25 May 2014, resulting in Petro Poroshenko being elected President of Ukraine with 54.7% of the votes cast. However, elections were not held throughout Ukraine. In the Donbass region of Ukraine, out of 2,430 planned ballot stations only 426 remained open for polling, and in some of the largest cities in the region there was not a single ballot box due to separatist protests. Reported voter turnout was at over 60% excluding those regions not under government control.

The election was held in the midst of a great deal of unrest or a virtual civil war, resulting in the death of hundreds of people, as the result of Ukrainian forces attacking their own citizens from land and air. Over 110,000 Ukrainians have fled to Russia as the result of insecurity and government attacks. (9)

However, despite all these shortcomings, Western politicians hailed the Ukrainian election as a great triumph for democracy and the new Ukrainian president was feted as a great hero when he met EU leaders in Brussels on 27 June.

There is no doubt that a large number of Ukrainians are hoping to achieve greater freedom and democracy and enjoy a West-European lifestyle and living standards. However, whether this will be achieved by shutting out Russia and enforcing severe austerity measures on the Ukrainians remains to be seen. Instead of creating a virtual civil war in Ukraine and alienating a neighbor that regards Ukraine as its spiritual home, would it not have been wiser to remain close both to the EU and Russia, instead of falling headlong into the Western camp?

The dreams of the Ukrainians could have been achieved in a much more orderly manner had it not been for the involvement of American and European leaders who regarded the issue as a geopolitical gain in order to push the boundaries of the EU and NATO closer to Russia and encircle her.

As early as 6 March 2014 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that, "in these difficult moments, NATO stands by Ukraine." (10)

Meanwhile, on Tuesday 1 July, Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatists in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of "parasites".

Egypt

Ever since the military coup in 1952 ended the rule of Muhammad Ali Dynasty in Egypt, ousted King Farouk and declared a republic, all Egyptian presidents have been chosen from the ranks of the military. Major General Muhammad Naguib was the first president who only ruled from 18 June 1953 to 14 November 1954.

Naguib soon began to clash with his more radical, younger deputy, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, who believed any talk of democracy or a multi-party system would allow the Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood to regain the ground they had lost after the army coup. Following a 1954 attempt on his life, Nasser ordered a crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood and put President Muhammad Naguib under house arrest.

A June 1956 referendum approved Nasser's nomination as president, a post that he kept until his death in 1970. Nasser was succeeded by Muhammad Anwar Sadat who had also been a senior member of the Free Officers that overthrew the king. After the assassination of President Sadat in 1981, the then Air Force Commander Hosni Mubarak took over as president.

During his presidency Mubarak was nominated by a two-thirds majority of the rubber-stamp People's Assembly and approved under a referendum process in which he was the sole candidate and won with near 100% majorities. The 2005 election was the first-ever multi-candidate election in Egypt, in which two other candidates also took part, and Mubarak allegedly won with 88.6%.

In the first post-Mubarak democratic election held in Egypt on 23 and 24 May 2012 with a voter turnout of 46% the results were split between five major candidates. In the second round, held on 16 and 17 June with 52% turnout, Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, won with 13,320,131 votes or 51.73% of the votes cast, against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik who won 12,347,380 or 48.27% of the votes.

Despite many international observers declaring Egypt's first democratic election to have been fair and free, the military under General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a coup on 3 July 2013, deposed and imprisoned President Morsi, suspended the constitution and started a violent nationwide campaign against the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, killing and wounding thousands of demonstrators who opposed the coup.

The excuse given for their action was that a mass movement Tamarrod (or Disobedience) that was formed on 28 April 2913 had called for the ousting of the president. This was despite the fact that according to a poll published by the PEW research center in May 2013, 54% of Egyptians approved of Morsi against a 43% who saw him negatively. It certainly is a novel idea that anytime that a government's popularity falls the military has a right to topple the government.

Morsi had certainly made many mistakes during his one year in office and he was not popular with all groups, especially the secular groups and members of religious minorities who were nervous about the Islamic orientation of the government. There is also no doubt that the majority of educated Egyptians are not in favor of religious fundamentalism.

It is fair to assume that a Muslim Brotherhood government would be antipathetic to the interests of women, religious minorities and secular people.

Nevertheless, Morsi had come to power as the result of a democratic election, and on the whole he had remained faithful to his bargain with the electorate and had not taken many extreme measures. He should have been removed in another democratic election when it was shown that the Muslim Brotherhood did not have any answers to the problems that modern Egypt is facing.

Removing him in a violent military coup would only push his followers towards greater extremism, and would also return Egypt to the bad old days of military rule. If Muslim parties feel that they are barred from taking part in democratic politics they will have no option but to turn to violence, while the best alternative would be to allow them to compete fairly in politics and prove by their actions that they cannot run a modern state.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for his removal was the economic interests of the Egyptian army that include local industries, foreign partnerships to maritime and air transport, oil and gas and many other aspects of the Egyptian economy. Another important factor was the nervousness of some absolutist Persian Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, which saw the first democratic election in Egypt as a threat to their dictatorial rule.

The army gave President Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum to resign or be removed. In a late-night television address, Morsi said that he would "defend the legitimacy of his elected office with his life", adding that "there is no substitute for legitimacy". (11)

After the expiration of the deadline, the army under the command of General Sisi moved and put an end to Egypt's first democratically elected government.

After removing Morsi from office, the military arrested more than 300 leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a number of pro-Brotherhood radio and television stations and newspapers were also shut down, and they even arrested three journalists from the Aljazeera television network for reporting on the anti-military demonstrations.

They have been given long jail sentences merely for reporting what was going on in Egypt. According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, 638 demonstrators were killed on 14 August, including 595 civilians and 43 police officers, but Human Rights Watch announced that its investigations revealed the killing of many more people. It wrote: "At least 1,400 protesters have been killed in protests and political violence as a result, and most likely scores more." (12)

In order to legitimize his rule, General Sisi organized new presidential elections between 26-28 May 2014. The election came less than a year after Sisi had deposed President Morsi in June 2013. The elections, which were planned for two days, were extended for a third day due to low turnout. According to official figures 25,578,233 people voted in the elections, a turnout of 47.5%, with el-Sisi winning a stunning 23.78 million votes, 96.91% of all votes cast.

However, unofficial sources put the turnout as much lower than that. It is remarkable that despite the fact that more than 51.73% of voters had voted for former President Mohamed Morsi in 2012 and the independent candidate Ahmed Shafik had received 48.27% of the votes, only two years later Sisi received nearly one hundred per cent of the votes.

The percentage of votes declared for him is more like the votes that former President Hosni Mubarak and former President Saddam Hussein used to receive than the votes of any democratic candidate in any normal election.

It should be noted that General Sisi had virtually the whole field open to him. Ayman Nour and his Ghad El-Thawra refused to take part in the election. The New Wafd Party stated on 27 January 2014 that it would not nominate anyone, as did the Kefaya Movement that had played such a prominent role in anti-Mubarak demonstrations.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy announced on 27 April 2014 that it would boycott the vote. The 6 April movement announced that it would also boycott the vote, describing the election as a "farce". After holding an internal vote, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party decided not to officially back any candidate. The Socialist Popular Alliance also demanded "fair, transparent, credible elections" and argued that allowing the election to turn into a referendum over a single military candidate would mean the establishment of a totalitarian state. The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy announced on 27 April 2014 that it would boycott the vote. The Strong Egypt Party re-affirmed on 14 May that it would boycott the vote.

The same was true about all the prominent candidates. The interim President Adly Mansour stated in November 2013 that he would not run. Amr Moussa who had finished fifth in the 2012 presidential election refused to be a candidate. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouch, who had finished fourth in the 2012 election, announced on 9 February 2014 that he would not run. Khaled Ali, a labor lawyer and former presidential candidate, withdrew his candidacy on 16 March after the passage of the presidential elections law, describing the election as a "farce", while also urging el-Sisi not to run and the army to stay out of politics. Ahmed Shafiq, who finished second to Mohamed Morsi in the 2012 presidential election, announced on 20 March that he would not run for president.

A day after the election, the only other candidate who went to the second round, Hamdeen Sabahi, who allegedly received only 757,511 votes said the official turnout figures were too high and were "an insult to the intelligence of Egyptians". He contested the results of the election, but the appeal was rejected just one day after the election without any investigation. Therefore, the election was truly a farce and more like a military coup.

Nevertheless, despite the army coup and a manifestly fraudulent election, Western leaders have accepted the outcome of that election and, as noted above, US military and economic assistance to the new military junta has been resumed. Meanwhile, the new regime has also received more than ten billion dollars from various Persian Gulf Arab regimes. (13)

The U.S. government should call the violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government by its proper name, namely a coup, and should stop funding it and cooperating with it. Such policy may anger the military junta and its Saudi backers, but millions of people in Egypt and throughout the Middle East are watching how the United States reacts to this travesty of an election.

It is inconceivable that after the Arab uprisings and the dreams of millions of people who demonstrated in Egypt and throughout the Arab world to achieve democracy a military dictatorship will be the end of all those dreams.

The politicized young people who constitute the majority of the populations in the Middle East will not put up with military juntas for long, and will reassert themselves either through the ballot boxes or if that route is closed to them unfortunately through more violent means.

Syria

The modern history of Syria starts from 1963 when a military coup brought the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party to power. The secular Ba'thist government that advocated the ideologies of Arab nationalism and socialism has ruled Syria ever since. Hafiz Assad was appointed Commander of the Syrian Air Force, but in 1966 he participated in a second coup that toppled the traditional leaders of the Ba'th Party and brought a radical military faction headed by Salah Jadid to power, and Assad was appointed defense minister by the new government.

In 1970, Assad seized power by toppling Jadid and declaring himself the leader of Syria, and in 1971 he was elected President of Syria for a seven-year term in a plebiscite. In 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood staged an uprising in the city of Hama, but it was brutally suppressed by the military. Initial diplomatic reports put the number of the dead at around 1,000, but human rights organizations have accused Assad of killing as many as 20,000 civilians. About 1,000 Syrian soldiers were also killed during the operation. Since Hafez Assad's death in 2000, his British-educated son Bashar Assad has ruled Syria.

The recent uprising started with demonstrations on 28 January 2011 in Damascus and Aleppo in the wake of the "Arab Spring" in Tunisia and Egypt. The demonstrations were initially peaceful, demanding democratic reforms, but from 20 March they turned violent when the Syrian army started attacks on the demonstrators, and within ten days some 100 people were killed.

Soon it turned into a significant armed rebellion against President Bashar Assad's government. It is estimated that by July 2012 some 16,000 people had been killed and the International Committee of the Red Cross judged the fighting in Syria to be a civil war. By now, it is estimated that more than 150,000 people - including civilians, insurgents and military personnel - have been killed and some nine million people have been displaced. The conflict has turned into one of the most brutal, deadly and destructive conflicts in the Middle East since the Second World War.

Although there were some regional and international aspects to the conflict, here we only dwell on the domestic situation.

Many Western analysts have described the conflict to be mainly between the Sunni majority and the Assad family that belongs to the Alawite minority, which is a syncretistic offshoot of Shia Islam. This is a gross oversimplification, because for a start the country is a mosaic of different religious and ethnic groups. Out of Syria's 23 million inhabitants, over 74% are Sunni Muslims. Other Muslims, including the Alawites constitute only about 11% of the population. Various Christian denominations make up 10%, the Kurds about 9%, and 500,000 Palestinians, Armenians, Turkmen, Druze and others make up the rest of the population.

Most of the three million members of the Ba'athist Party are Sunni. A large number of Sunnis from all backgrounds, including the working and rural classes, fight alongside the regime in the form of conscripts or army personnel. There is also a prosperous Sunni bourgeoisie that has sided with the government.

Above all, Bashar Assad's British-born wife Asma al-Assad who is a graduate of King's College, London, is a Sunni. Syria's Prime Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi is a Sunni. The Defense Minister Jassim Al Freij is a Sunni. Foreign Minister Waleed Moallem is a Sunni. Syria's UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari is a Sunni. Information Minister Omran Ahed al Zoubi is a Sunni. Minister of Expatriates Bouthaina Al Shaaban is a Sunni, as are a number of other ministers. Describing the Syrian conflict as a sectarian conflict has been mainly a propaganda ploy by Saudi Arabia which intends to fan the flames of sectarianism in the region.

Domestically, the conflict has turned into a battle between the government and its mainly secularist supporters from among Sunnis, Shi'is, Christians and other religious minorities, and groups of Sunnis militants who wish to establish a Shari'a-based government, similar to that of Saudi Arabia, the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. They have been joined in this battle by a large number of Jihadists from across the Arab world, even from Chechnya, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as a few thousand radical Muslims from various European countries.

These radicalized Jihadists form the most effective fighting forces in the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front) and even in the more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which has conquered nearly a third of Iraq.

Lately, ISIS declared a caliphate, led by Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, and according to their own figures they have slaughtered 1,700 people, mainly Shiites, in Iraq since the fall of Mosul. Western countries have been supporting and arming many of the insurgents, some of whom became much more extreme later on, with the aim of toppling Bashar Assad and cutting the link between Iran and the Lebanese Hizballah.

On 3 July 2014, a study by the BBC program Newsnight, revealed that the UK had drawn up plans to train and equip a 100,000-strong Syrian rebel army to defeat President Bashar al-Assad. The secret initiative, put forward two years ago, was the brainchild of the then most senior UK military officer, General Sir David Richards. It was considered by the British Prime Minister and the National Security Council, as well as US officials, but was deemed too risky. However, Britain has been one of the countries that has provided a great deal of non-lethal aid to the insurgents. (14)

The U.S. government has been providing millions of dollars of assistance and training to the militants through Jordan and Turkey since the beginning of the conflict. According to a number of reports, the United States has even distributed some weapons to Syrian rebels. According to a report by Reuters in September 2013, "The United States has begun distributing some weapons to the Syrian rebels, a spokesman for the Syrian Coalition of groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday, after months of reported delays." Despite denials of the supply of lethal aid, Salih, the spokesman of the Syrian Coalition, said: "The U.S. is distributing non-lethal aid and ... some lethal assistance as well to the SMC (Supreme Military Council)." (15)

However, despite a great deal of bloodshed, the insurgents have not been able to topple the government. On the contrary, during the past few months, government forces have made some gains and have pushed the insurgents from a number of areas that they had previously seized.

In order to calm the situation and gain some legitimacy, the Syrian government organized a new presidential election on 3 June 2014. It was the first multi-candidate election since the Ba'th Party came to power. A total of 24 candidates, including two women and a Christian, submitted applications to the Supreme Constitutional Court for the election. Out of those candidates, in addition to Assad, two other candidates met all the conditions to run. They included a 54-year old MP from Damascus, Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri from the National Initiative for Administration and Change in Syria, and a 43-year old MP from Aleppo, Maher Abd Al-Hariz Hajjar, from the People's Will Party.

The Supreme Constitutional Court announced on Wednesday 4 June that the turnout for the election had been 73.42%, with 11,634,412 out of the 15,845,575 Syrians eligible to take part in the voting, and Bashar Assad won with a 88.7% majority.

Despite the fact that a number of foreign observers from 30 countries, including India, Russia, South Africa and Venezuela, testified that the election had been "free, fair and transparent", there is no doubt that the election did not meet the requirements of democratic elections. For a start, the country was in the midst of a civil war, and the election could not be held in a number of localities that were under the control of the insurgents.

However, it could be argued that the Syrian election was no less democratic than the elections held in Egypt and Ukraine. If the Egyptian election was held by a general who had toppled a democratically-elected president in a military coup, and the Ukrainian election was also held after the toppling of a democratically-elected president by an armed mob, and in the midst of a civil war, we must recognize that the Syrian election was held by a legal government that is fighting a combination of the most brutal terrorists supported by foreign powers.

Instead of welcoming that election, as was done in the case of the Egyptian and Ukrainian elections, British Foreign Minister William Hague said: "Assad lacked legitimacy before this election, and lacks it afterwards. The election bore no relation to genuine democracy." (16) U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said: "Today's presidential election in Syria is a disgrace. Bashar al-Assad has no more credibility today than he did yesterday." (17)

Furthermore, as pointed out earlier, President Obama has requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip what the White House is calling "appropriately vetted" members of the Syrian opposition. The aim is allegedly to support the "moderate opposition" to stand up against the Jabhat al-Nusra and the ISIS and to topple President Assad.

We have seen that the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in Libya did not result in the establishment of democracy, but created a much greater terrorist threat. Surely, the toppling of President Assad at a time when the most militant terrorists have weakened the "moderate" opposition and created mayhem in Syria and Iraq will have even more disastrous consequences.

The reactions of Western politicians to the three elections have shown the selective nature of their support for democracy. Is it any wonder that most people in the world do not take the democratic claims of Western leaders very seriously?

Footnotes

1. See "John Kerry Meets with Egyptian President al-Sisi, Discusses Domestic Issues and Iraq", International Business Times, June 22, 2014.

2. See "A Diplomatic Mystery" Foreign Policy, August 24, 2009.

3. See: Ian Traynor, "US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev", The Guardian, 26 November 2004,

4. See "Leaked Phone Call Reveals New Coalition Government Was Behind Sniper Shootings in Ukraine"

5. See: "Ukraine crisis: deal signed in effort to end Kiev standoff", The Guardian, 21 February 2014.

6. See: "What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis", Consortiumnews.com, March 2, 2014.

7. See: BBC Transcript of the leaked tape.

8. See: Regime Change in Ukraine. Victoria Nuland Admits: US Has Invested $5 Billion In the Development of Ukrainian, "Democratic Institution" Information Clearing House.

9- See AP report: "110,000 Fled Ukraine For Russia This Year".

10. See NATO "Secretary General assures Ukrainian Prime Minister that NATO stands by Ukraine",

11. See: "Egypt's president refuses to step down", Aljazeera, 3 July 2013,

12. See: "Egypt: New Leader Faces Rights Crisis", Human Rights Watch, June 10, 2014,

13. See: "Sisi counting on Gulf aid to deal with Egypt's economic crisis", Almonitor.

14. See: "Syria Conflict: UK planned to train and equip 100,000 rebels" BBC Newsnight, 3 July 2014,

15. See: "U.S. providing some lethal aid to Syrian rebels: opposition spokesman", Reuters, Sept 10, 2013,

16. See: "Foreign Secretary responds to Syrian election result", Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 5 June, 2014)

17. See: "U.S. condemns Syrian presidential election as a disgrace", Reuters, June 2014


Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour, a TFF Associate and Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society, is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.

 

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