By Patrick Martin, Globe and Mail, August 2, 2012
In an abrupt move, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, has resigned his position as head of a UN Security Council peace-making mission to Syria.
The news signals the end of any realistic hope for a political solution to the raging conflict that has torn apart the country and left as many as 20,000 people dead.
“The increasing militarization on the ground [in Syria] and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council have fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role,” Mr. Annan said, reading from a prepared statement Thursday.
“It’s a bad sign,” said Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “I guess it means he’s given up hope of getting the backing he needs from the external parties for a substantive dialogue with the [Syrian] regime. And he's given up on getting any meaningful engagement from the regime and opposition.”
“He’s not wrong,” Dr. Sayigh added. “This conflict is going to go on for a very long time.”
Within weeks of taking the assignment this spring, Mr. Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, had devised a six-point plan that would allow the protagonists in Syria to step down in stages.
It included the withdrawal of military forces from urban centres, a cessation of hostilities by both sides and negotiations for a gradual handover of power to democratically elected leaders
But neither side would have anything to do with it, beyond saying they would not abide by it.
“The bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government's intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition, all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community,” Mr. Annan said.
“The plan was doomed to fail,” said a former senior official in the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Neither the opposition nor the regime showed any inclination to compromise,” said the former official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
“Neither side has put forward a realistic agenda for what to do when the conflict is over,” he said. “They are only interested in destroying the other side.”
Mr. Annan didn’t disagree with such an analysis, but in responding to reporters’ questions at a hastily assembled press conference Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland, said he had felt obliged to take on what some called a “mission impossible.”
“The severity of the humanitarian costs of the conflict, and the exceptional threats posed by this crisis to international peace and security, justified the attempts to secure a peaceful transition to a political settlement, however daunting the challenge,” Mr. Annan said.
He blamed international leaders for not accepting responsibility to act.
“At a time when we need – when the Syrian people desperately need – action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council.”
Countries such as Russia, China and Iran must do more to persuade the regime of Mr. al-Assad to end the conflict and to step down, Mr. Annan said emphatically. And countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States must do more than simply root for the opposition to triumph.
As the news of Mr. Annan’s resignation was becoming known, the U.S. State Department announced a further $12-million (U.S.) in humanitarian assistance for Syrian civilians. That brings the total for Washington’s humanitarian relief to $76-million.
Anna is right to say that he cannot be more committed to peace than the combatants in the fight. Nevertheless, why are we not hearing more about what has really become a "proxy war" with the western powers on one side (SFA, the Syrian Free Army) and China and Russia on the Assad/government side?
We continue to hear that "Russia and China are blocking any resolution that calls for Assad to step down, because that would lead to chaos"...but we know that Russian arms have supplied Assad, as has Iranian support. And, now there is evidence that Al Qaeda is operating in Syria, as well as Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and yesterday there were arrests of three potential Al Qaeda suicide bombers in Spain.
To what extent is the Syrian conflict linked to the radical Islamic drive to remove "man's government and replace it with god's government" around the world?
What is the role of religion in the Syrian conlict?
What possible gain can come to either China or Russia from backing Assad?
If, as most observers agree, this is likely to be a very long conflict, with many more casulties than the already tragic 20,000, how long will it be before the major powers enter the fray militarily and where will that lead?
This is another black day for world diplomacy, for the UN, and for the Syrian people whose lives continue to be at risk, and yesterday came word that Assad's forces had bombed a refugee camp killing another two dozen people....
When will the killing and the slaughter of the innocents stop?