European Council on Foreign Relations

Syria after the elections: Assad victorious?

This post is part of a series on the issues discussed at the ECFR Annual Council Meeting in Rome (12-13 June). You can find more content and audio from the council meeting here

The Syrian presidential election held in early June, and called a farce by the opposition and its Western allies, is a reminder that the Damascus regime is not close to relinquishing power. Quite the opposite, Assad's electoral success with 88.7% of the votes and his new seven-year term underscore his unyielding hold on power, more than three years after the start of the Syrian uprising that has turned into a bloody civil war. Yet can one really speak of a "victory"? The Allawite leader's win was largely a foregone conclusion, with other candidates Hassan Nouri and Maher Hajjar part of the co-opted opposition, voting organised in government-controlled areas, and continued military attacks across the country.

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French hostages freed amidst Syria chaos

On 19 April 2014, French hostages Didier François, Édouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, and Pierre Torres, all abducted more than ten months earlier in the north of Syria, were liberated. The following day, French President François Hollande and the families of the four journalists welcomed them at Villacoublay Air Base, southwest of Paris. 

In the ensuing hours, details surrounding their capture and subsequent detention began to emerge; of particular interest and concern has been their many transfers from place to place and the mistreatment to which they had been subjected during their ordeal, including hunger, cold, beatings, and mock executions.

French authorities, however, have thus far remained extremely discreet about the events leading up to their release, although it is now widely acknowledged that the French foreign intelligence service (Direction générale de la sécurité

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A strategic approach for Syria

Yesterday, ECFR published the fourth edition of the 2014 European Foreign Policy Scorecard, a comprehensive evaluation of European foreign policy in six key areas –relations with the United States, China, Russia, Wider Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa, and Europe's performance in multilateral institutions and in crisis management – and of the EU28 Member States. 2013 was a good year if compared to the previous three: among the improvements was the performance in relations with the MENA region.
 
But, despite the positive grade that Europe gained for this improvement, Syria still remains a crucial and unsolved issue. If Iran ends up being a successful story for Europe, then other relevant actors in the region, such as Syria, will have clearly missed the message underlining Europe’s political and strategic vision. Europe failed with its European Neighbourhood Policy, but

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The widening conflict in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon

Over recent weeks, and particularly days, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have witnessed a surge of developments that suggest a rapid intensification of the devastating battle unfolding across the region.

In Syria, rebel coalitions launched a wide-ranging and apparently coordinated assault on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) positions across the north of the country; in Iraq, ISIS concurrently launched an offensive in key cities in Anbar province, seizing large parts of Fallujah and Ramadi; and in Lebanon a series of recent bomb attacks, including one claimed by ISIS, mark a significant uptick in attacks.

Taken together these incidents clearly point to the growing intensity and complexity of the Syrian conflict. Within Syria itself a second civil war amongst rebels now appears to have broken out, and developments in both Iraq and Lebanon can directly be attributed to the

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The Syrian refugee crisis: A disjointed EU response

A report published by Amnesty International last week has condemned European leaders for the pitifully low number of Syrian refugees that they have offered to resettle. According to Amnesty, EU member states have only offered places for around 12,000 refugees from the war-torn country -- a number equating to just 0.5 percent of the colossal 2.3 million people who have fled Syria since a peaceful uprising nearly three ago transformed into a devastating conflict. The new report reveals that only 10 EU member states, to date, have offered resettlement or humanitarian admission to Syrian refugees. Of these Germany is the leading the way, having pledged to take in 10,000 Syrians. In contrast the remaining 27 EU member states have only put forward a mere 2,340 places between them, with France offering just 300 places, Spain 30 and the UK and Italy along with sixteen others having yet to

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