Annan fails in Damascus as Syrian army continues its onslaught—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #11 (March 11)

Predictably, Kofi Annan was rebuffed by Bashar al-Asad in talks in Damascus on March 10-11.  Inexplicably, Annan declared following his talks in Damascus that there exist grounds for “optimism”.

As the fighting continues in and around Idlib and in other parts of the country, it is difficult to see Annan’s mission as anything other than a smokescreen to obfuscate the abject failure of outside powers to intervene militarily to stop the killing.   In the judgment of Senator John McCain and many others, only such intervention can stop the Syrian military from their current slaughter of civilians as they seek to repress all opposition to the government.  Bashar al-Assad has labeled all of his opposition as “terrorists” and affirmed he will not negotiate with them. The Syrian opposition also rejects negotiations.

Annan’s grounds for optimism are hard to discern, if it refers to anything more than his continuing his mission–as Syria with Russian support proceeds with its rampage against civilians in towns where both unarmed and armed opposition have taken hold. By failing to establish a ceasefire as the only topic for discussion, Annan has in effect offered the Syrian Dictator and his Russian and Iranian backers  more time to “finish the job” of wiping out all opposition within the country through the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On the diplomatic front, the foreign ministers of Russia, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany are due to meet for a Security Council meeting in New York on Monday (March 12), where Syria will undoubtedly be a principal topic of discussion.

For current developments on the ground, as well as the latest diplomatic moves, see:

Patrick J. McDonnell (reporting from Beirut), “Kofi Annan meets with Syria President Bashar Assad; “As tanks reportedly attack rebels in Idlib, the former U.N. chief holds talks in a bid to head off what world leaders fear could become a full-fledged civil war,” Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2012.

Lourival Sant’Anna (enviado especial), “Do lado turco da fronteira, rebeldes tramam o fim de Assad; Opositores sírios preparam-se para combater um inimigo determinado e mais forte,” O Estado de São Paulo, 10 de março de 2012 (17:42 h).

Enric González (Mokaibli, Líbano), “Siria se ha convertido en una cárcel; Menos de 30.000 civiles han logrado escapar del país; El control sobre la vigilancia de las familias de los oficiales impide la desintegración del Ejército,” El País, 10 de marzo de 2012 (21:40 CET).

Assocated Press (Beirut), “Kofi Annan leaves Syria after talks with Assad; Former UN secretary general says he offered Syrian president concrete proposals ‘which will have a real impact on the ground,'” The Guardian, March 11, 2012 (14:19 EDT). Article details diplomatic developments, including meeting in New York on March 12 with foreign ministers of U.S., U.K. Germany, and Russia.

Peter Beaumont, “Syria in turmoil: Assad launches fresh shelling of civilian housesKofi Annan’s ceasefire mission falters as the tanks roll in to besiege the city of Idlib,” The Guardian, March 10, 2012 (11.01 EST).

Jean-Jacques Mevel, “Syrie : les Occidentaux craignent l’enlisement,” Le Figaro, le 11 mars 2012 (21:34 h).

(Le Figaro), “Syrie : “l’armée poursuit son offensive, Annan «optimiste»,” Le Figaro, le 11 mars 2012, (acualisé à 17:39 h).

One final thought: For 60 years the Arab world has viewed developments in the Middle East primarily through the template or prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue. In 2011, an alternative narrative developed, which offers the possibility that in the future events in the region will be viewed through a lens that emphasizes human rights and the rule of law.

The response of the United States and other key Western countries to the ongoing terror in Syria may well have a determinative impact on the template through which the Arab world views the West in the future. This is ultimately what is at stake, in addition to our own sense of who we are and the kind of world in which we want to live.

The Trenchant Observer


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The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.