Kofi Annan’s Ghost Arises: More Illusory Solutions from Brahimi and China—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #89 (November 8)

Chinese Proposal for Syria

It is curious indeed to see China propose a “solution” to the Syrian civil war at this precise moment in time, when power is being transferred to Xi Jinping and a new generation of Communist Party leaders at the Party Congress which opens today.

The “proposal” is made of thin air, and seems to have been conjured up on the spot when Lakhdar Brahimi was in Beijing to discuss the Syrian situation with the foreign ministry.

See Colum Lynch (Turtle Bay), “Could China’s Syria ceasefire plan be the path to peace?” Foreign Policy, November 1, 2012. Lynch restates the details of the Chinese proposal, which include:

“A political settlement is the only viable solution in Syria,” Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said, according to Xinhua, which outlined Beijing’s big idea:

First, relevant parties in Syria should make every effort to stop fighting and violence, and cooperate actively with the mediation efforts of Brahimi. Relevant parties should implement effective steps toward a cease-fire, for example region by region or phase by phase, expand the areas of cease-fire, realize disengagement, and eventually bring an end to all armed conflict and violence.

Second, relevant parties in Syria should appoint empowered interlocutors as soon as possible so that, assisted by Brahimi and the international community, they can formulate through consultations a roadmap of political transition, establish a transitional governing body of broad representation, and implement political transition so as to end the Syrian crisis at an early date. To ensure a safe, stable and calm transition, the continuity and effectiveness of Syria’s governmental institutions must be maintained.

Third, the international community should work with greater urgency and responsibility to fully cooperate with and support Brahimi’s mediation efforts and make real progress in implementing the communique of the Geneva foreign ministers’ meeting of the Action Group for Syria, Mr. Annan’s six-point plan and relevant Security Council resolutions. The positive efforts of the Arab League and countries in the region in search of a political settlement should be valued.

Fourth, relevant parties should take concrete steps to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The international community should increase humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and ensure proper resettlement of refugees beyond the Syrian border and timely aid for those in need within Syria. The Syrian government and various parties should render full cooperation to the work of the United Nations and relevant neutral institutions to provide humanitarian assistance in all conflict-affected regions and ensure the safety of their personnel. At the same time, humanitarian issues should not be politicized and humanitarian assistance should not be militarized.

The Chinese proposal should simply be ignored. It contains no more than previous “castles in the sky” agreed to by the permanent members of the Security Council, which contained no coercive measures to oblige al-Assad to stop the killing.

See Allison Jackson, “China’s peace plan for Syria: Q & A;
China has proposed a four-point peace plan for resolving the Syrian crisis. But what does it mean? And why now?” GlobalPost, November 7, 2012.

Anyone who believes that an agreement by al-Assad could mean anything, and could lead to an end to the fighting, has–to put it most charitably–either been asleep or not following developments in Syria for the last year.

The Ghost of Kofi Annan Arises

At the same time, the ghost of Kofi Annan has arisen in the form of Lakhdar Brahimi’s latest thoughts on a solution to the on-going civil war. It will be recalled that Brahimi was proposed by Kofi Annan as Russia and China exerted great pressure on Ban Ki-Moon to urgently appoint a successor to Kofi Annan following the latter’s resignation. Obligingly, without any public discussion of the desirability of continuing Annan’s ill-conceived and ill-fated mission, though with a new Special Envoy, Ban Ki-Moon appointed Brahimi at Annan’s suggestion.

Now, in the Chinese proposal with Brahimi, we see the same plan Annan was floating in Geneva on June 30. We see the same worn, rejected ideas resurface in Brahimi’s latest thinking, including–incredibly–the idea of the Syrian government and others in Syria appointing “empowered interlocutors” to negotiate transitional arrangements. Brahimi has in the last few days warned of a collapse of the Syrian state and the “Somalization” of the conflict, while also arguing the June 30 agreement in Geneva should be adopted by the Security Council as a resolution. He seems to be grasping at straws in the face of an increasingly desperate situation.

That these ideas have not died once and for all, after the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians during the period of Kofi Annan’s mission (which amounted to de facto work on behalf of the Russians and al-Assad himself), is beyond incredible.

It is so incredible that the United States and other nations should rethink their support of the U.N. peacekeeping activities led by current officials, and act, immediately, to defund the office in Geneva which supports Brahimi’s futile and dangerous mission.

The U.N. administration under Ban Ki-Moon’s leadership has contributed exactly zero in efforts to halt the killing by the al-Assad government in Syria, and has acted in fact in ways which have delayed effective action by other states by endlessly holding out unfounded hopes and “castles in the sky“.

Enough! Send Brahimi home. Ignore the illusory “proposal” from China. Ignore the UN clowns! Support action that will provide a counter-force to al-Assad’s tanks and artillery and aircraft which are attacking and bombing the Syrian population.

Above all, the U.S., NATO and Arab states should firmly resist any efforts by Russia, China, or al-Assad to use Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and his mission to save al-Assad and his government from the harsh fate they so richly deserve.

Phrasing the Demand for Change in Syria

The demand for change in Syria should not be literally phrased as one for the ouster of Bashar al-Assad, for that plays into the Russian and the Chinese counterargument that the international community should not be in the business of replacing governments.

Instead, the demand should be phrased in terms of requiring that those responsible for ordering the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and tolerating the commission of such crimes by those under their command, should be removed from power, arrested and detained, and prosecuted for their crimes.

The Russians and the Chinese will be on much weaker ground in seeking to rebut this demand. It should be stated as part of a general goal of bringing to a halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

When the commission of such crimes is halted and those responsible for their commission are removed from power and brought to justice, the killing in Syria will stop.

No negotiated agreement with al-Assad and his fellow war criminals will produce real results.

The only agreements now worth pursuing are ceasefire agreements, with implementation mechanisms, whether arranged locally or at a national level as the regime begins to crumble.

Intense thought should now be given to the establishment of an international force (whether under U.N. auspices, or those of another international coalition), which can effectively oversee that ceasefire and the reconstruction of Syria which should begin the day the guns go silent.

U.N. Security Council Action Required When the Syrian State Starts to Collapse

Once the Syrian state starts to collapse, if not before, the Permanent Members of the Security Council should come together to draft a resolution that would establish a U.N. Transitional Authority in Syria, together with a U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Syria with a mandate for two-five years. This is what will be required, sooner or later, to bring the situation under control following the collapse of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

See  The Trenchant Observer, “REPRISE: Goals to guide the international community in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #62 (July 11),” July 11, 2012.

The Permanent Members of the Security Council should be in continuing and direct consultations with each other as the crisis continues to unfold. They should be talking to each other directly, not through Lakhdar Brahimi (with Kofi Annan offering advice from the wings).

These conversations and negotiations should not be merely delegated to lower-ranking officials, but should include the active involvement of officials at the ministerial and the presidential levels.

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.

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