Speaking before a group of Syrian opposition members in New York only days before the collapse of the US-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry advised the group on their best path to ousting the Assad government amid intense fighting – a "political" solution.
"You can have an election and let the people of Syria decide: Who do they want?" said Kerry in what on its face appears to be a fairly benign statement in advocacy of restoring democracy to the war torn country, but there is a very big caveat.
Kerry explained that such an election could be set up by Western governments and imposed by the United Nations "under the strictest standards" and suggested that the result could effectively be cooked by incorporating the millions of Syrian refugees who fled the country since 2011 voting in absence.
"Everybody who is registered as a refugee anywhere in the world can vote. Are they going to vote for Assad? Assad’s scared of this happening. Assad is very scared of this happening. We know this from intelligence and we know this from the Russians. So democracy has some virtues folks," advised Kerry.
The Syrians in the audience questioned whether the civilians living in the country would be able to freely cast their vote against Assad, but a much larger question presents itself over whether the votes of the refugees would be tallied in a fair and equitable fashion occurring outside of the government and administered by powers who see the election as a tool to remove the Syrian government even if reports show that a majority of refugees blame terror groups like Daesh (ISIS) for their plight.
The timing of this strategy session with Syrian opposition figures, only days before the collapse of the ceasefire – which collapsed after a US-led airstrike on Deir Ez Zor military base killed 62 Syrian soldiers and wounded 100 others – also raises questions about the sincerity of the US commitment to peace.
The deal also struggled under the weight of over 300 ceasefire violations by armed rebel groups in Syria with the second largest 'moderate' rebel group Ahrar al-Sham patently refusing to commit to the ceasefire in the days leading up to its implementation and with rebels leaders saying that they could not disband from al-Nusra Front (Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate) because the groups had become too intertwined.