The mounting death toll in Homs and other Syrian cities is far more important than a referendum the Syrian government says showed overwhelmingly public support for a new constitution.
Syria's government said that almost 60 percent of eligible voters turned out for a referendum on a new Constitution today, and almost 90 percent of those voiced their approval.
But the political show is likely to do nothing to mollify Bashar al-Assad's opponents or end the war that is now gripping large parts of the country. Though the new Constitution theoretically allows multiparty competition for power in Syria for the first time since the Baath Party took power in 1963, there's good reason for Mr. Assad's political opponents not to believe it.
Syria's elections have been routinely rigged under Assad, much as they were under his father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad. The torture and murder of dissidents has been commonplace for decades. And the younger Assad's actions, far more than his words, show a steely desire to hold on to power as long as possible. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the referendum was "clearly a sham."
For real declarations of Assad's intent, you need look no further than Homs today. Last week, a group of foreign journalists was caught in an artillery barrage there, killing the Sunday Times' Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik. The death of the foreigners brought greater international attention to the month-long siege of the city, particularly of its Baba Amr neighborhood, where hundreds of Syrians – political activists and average civilians alike – have been killed.