Failure of “last chance to avoid civil war” in Syria—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #35 (May 10)

Kofi Annan has been quoted after briefing the U.N. Security Council (by satellite) on May 8 as saying his 6-point peace plan was “the last chance to avoid civil war in Syria.”

See AFP, “Kofi Annan: Last chance to avoid civil war in Syria,” Your Middle East, May 10, 2012.

This sentence has a familiar ring.

MOSCOW: Russian president Dmitry Medvedev voiced strong support on Sunday for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to end a year of violence in Syria, saying it could be the last chance to avert an even bloodier civil war.

“This may be the last chance for Syria to avoid a long-lasting and bloody civil war. Therefore we will offer you our full support at any level,” Medvedev told Annan at a meeting at a Moscow airport (emphasis added).

–Reuters, “Kofi Annan’s mission is Syria’s last chance: Russia,” The Times of India, Mar 25, 2012.

There has also been sharp criticism of the Annan peace plan and mission. See

Michael Weiss, “Kofi Annan’s ‘last chance’ Syria plan is going to end in humiliation and bloodshed,” The Telegraph, April 9, 2012.

Jonathan Schanzer and Claudia Rosett, “It’s Time to Add Syria to Kofi Annan’s Long List of Failures,” The New Republic, April 5, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Kofi Annan is not God—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #15 (March 23), March 23, 2012.

Not only were the Russians among the first to repeat, again and again, the “last chance to avoid civil war” mantra, but they also provided a number of the key ideas in Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan.

They presented their own five-point plan to a meeting of the Arab League on Saturday, March 10, 2012, and then declared that the League had endorsed it. The actual text of the League’s endorsement is not to be found, at least not by the Observer.

Annan’s mission has the enthusiastic backing of Syria’s major international ally, Russia, which last month joined with China in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called on Assad to relinquish power.

Russia’s defense of Assad has led to strained relations with many nations, including the United States and various Arab countries, where Moscow has been publicly excoriated.

In a bid to improve its regional standing, Russia on Saturday presented a “five-point” Syrian peace plan to the Arab League in Cairo, calling for, among other things, a cease-fire and “unimpeded” delivery of humanitarian aid.

–Patrick J. McDonnell, “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.

The Russian 5-point plan presented to the Arab League provided for the following:

In the end, the Arab League and Lavrov agreed on five points that could serve as the basis for a future U.N. Security Council resolution: an immediate cease-fire, a clause preventing foreign intervention, assurances about humanitarian aid and an endorsement of Annan’s mission.

–AP, “Syria assaults opposition as diplomacy staggers,” U.S. News and World Report, March 10, 2012.

With the Arab League’s endorsement, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russians achieved two key objectives: 1) a ban on foreign intervention; and 2) agreement on Kofi Annan’s mission.

These two pillars of Russian foreign policy have provided a shield protecting al-Assad and the Syrian government as they continued to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights.  They have also blocked efforts to resolve the conflict through means other than the “mediation” mission of  Kofi Annan.

Annan’s 6-point peace plan, premised on al-Assad’s remaining in power, has blocked all creative thought on how to act on the ground to stop al-Assad’s terror and how to organize a democratic transition in Syria.  To date, the whole morass has been a triumph for Russia, Syria, China, and Iran.

But for the international community, the 6-point peace plan has failed. Kofi Annan has failed. The Security Council has failed.

Only with an appreciation of these hard facts can the international community move forward and take the decisive action that is necessary to prevent Syria from morphing into something like Iraq in early 2006.

The Kofi Annan mission should be aborted.

There is no operative agreement with Syria regarding the six points in the Security Council’s peace plan.  We need to stop pretending such agreement exists when obviously it doesn’t.

The Trenchant Observer

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About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is an international lawyer who has taught innternational 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), and an international development practitioner who has worked on human rights and judicial reform projects in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and in Russia. He has also worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in Europe, the Middle East, throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Observer speaks fluent French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, in addition to English. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University, and a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in International Law from Harvard University. As an undergraduate, he studied modern European history at Stanford, where he won the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best honors thesis in history.