Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has called parliamentary elections in April, a decision both expected and believed to have little effect on Assad himself. Nonetheless, Russian and Iranian media are applauding Assad following an agreement between Russia and the United States to a ceasefire end to hostilities in Syria on February 27.
Kremlin propaganda site Russia Today and Iran’s Press TV published the news as breaking when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced an election date. Syria holds these elections every four years, the last held in 2012. Parliament terms end in May. The United Nations Security Council also adopted a resolution in December that demands parliamentary and presidential elections in Syria during the 18-month transition to end the Syrian civil war.
The sites have added the information since the news broke Monday afternoon, but they chose to keep the elections as the headline.
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) also celebrated the decree, giving the election news top billing. American officials have called for elections in Syria for years, claiming that the last round of presidential elections, amid civil war, were a “sham” and Assad should be held to run a fair campaign. Rumors previously circulated that Russia was trying to convince Assad to hold elections, those most expected such a push to involve Assad himself. Assad will not be on any ballots in the upcoming parliamentary election.
Assad passed the decree after the U.S. and Russia agreed on another ceasefire in Syria to begin on February 27. The “ceasefire” excludes any organizations considered terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared:
If implemented and adhered to, this cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas and support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people.
The agreement calls for the Syrian government and the armed opposition to indicate by Friday whether they will comply with the cease-fire. The United States and Russia have agreed to set up a hotline to monitor the compliance of both sides.
Analysts said the agreement was less an effort to end the fighting in Syria than to ease the bloodshed enough to allow more humanitarian aid to reach stricken cities like Aleppo.
“This is going to be difficult to implement,” explained White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Putin promised Moscow will do everything it can to implement the ceasefire.
“We are counting on the United States to do the same with its allies and the groups that it supports,” stated Putin.
The two countries agreed weeks ago to a ceasefire that never took hold. Syrian residents said bombing did not stop. Some told the Times that officials prevented them from re-entering Syria since more civilians tried to enter Turkey to escape more bombing.
“The deals they make there are so isolated and detached from this reality here,” cried Faisal, 25, who only provided a first name.
Another resident mentioned that the leaders participated in the three other supposed ceasefires, but it did not stop fighting.
“Geneva 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” sighed Mohammad Saeed, 27. “And there is nothing.”
The Times also spoke with moderate groups supported by the U.S., who “dismissed the cease-fire plan as naïve and fanciful.” They expected Russia to continue bombing any opposition against Assad since the agreement allowed bombing against Islamic State and Nusra Front.
“Russia will continue bombing Nusra and Daesh [ISIS],” stated fighter Yusef Farrouh. “And we know what Russia means by ‘Nusra’ and ‘Daesh’ — us. If we thought Russia was bombing Nusra clearly and specifically, we would have moved away from them.”