As the sad spectacle of Kofi Annan’s “mediation” of the conflict proceeds, and the world’s attention is turned to what Russia, or Annan, or the U.S. or other countries are saying in their interminable diplomatic dance, it is of utter importance that we all follow the example of The Daily Star and keep our attention riveted on what is happening on the ground.
Let us all, together, focus primarily on that, on events on the ground. As Kofi Annan prepares to travel to Damascus on Saturday, March 10, tanks are surrounding Idlib, soldiers have been bussed to the area, and the new onslaught has already begun as tanks overrun villages in outlying areas. In the meantime, tanks and artillery continue to attack civilian neighborhoods in Homs. Undoubtedly, they are also on the move in other parts of Syria.
–The Trenchant Observer, “The Daily Star: “We procrastinate”—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #9 (March 9), March 9, 2012
The latest news reports from the region reveal that in his meeting with Special U.N. Envoy Kofi Annan on Saturday, March 10, Bashar al-Assad has in effect rejected Annan’s and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for an immediate ceasefire, first by the Syrian government to be followed by the armed opposition. Annan hopes to meet with opposition leaders on the ground in Syria on Saturday evening, and to meet once again with Bashar al-Assad on Sunday before leaving Syria for further meetings in the region. Annan will meet with oppositon leaders in exile, including leaders of the Syrian National Council, after he has left Syria.
“Assad empfängt Annan mit noch mehr Blutvergießen,” Der Siegel, den 10. März 2012.
This is an excellent article on latest developments both on the ground and on the diplomatic front. It also contains a video report including footage of Annan meeting with Bashar al-Assad, and 17 photos. Der Spiegel articles in German are frequently published in the English edition (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/), usually after a delay of several days. Readers should check back at the English web site periodically to see if the article cited here has been published in English.
Kareem Fahim, “No Talks With Syria Opposition, Assad Tells U.N. Envoy,” New York Times, March 10, 2010.
Le Monde/avec AFP, “Syrie: l’armée prend d’assaut la ville rebelle d’Idleb,” Le Monde, le 10 mars 2012 (18h55 h)
The Arab League and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov issued on Saturday a call for a new peace plan in Syria, which according to some accounts contained the following points:
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.
The League’s backing down on previous demands for Assad to leave power appeared aimed at securing Russian support for a new resolution.
“Its not a perfect world,” League chief Nabil Elaraby said.
–Associated Press, “Syria assaults opposition as diplomacy staggers,” U.S. News and World Report, March 10, 2012.
However, the full text of the resolution, which is not widely available in English or other Western European languages on the web, should be made public and widely disseminated, so that independent observers can draw their own conclusions regarding what the resolution said about opposing outside intervention. The quote above may be based Lavrov’s statements. Prompt clarification is needed.
(Reuters/Beirut), “Assad rebuffs Annan as his troops hit Idlib,” Gulf Times, March 11, 2012.
Yasmine Saleh and Edmund Blair (Reuters/Africa), “UPDATE 3-Arabs urge Russia to back Syria peace plan,” Reuters/Africa, March 10, 2012 (4:06pm GMT).
TV5Monde/AFP (Damascus), “Syrie: assaut militaire sur Idleb, une nouvelle rencontre Annan-Assad dimanche,” le 10 mars 2012 (21:51 h).
Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, “Syria’s Bashar al-Assad firmly in control, U.S. intelligence officials say,” Washington Post, March 9, 2012.
The Washington Post’s coverage of events in Syria over the last two days (March 9 and 10) has been appalling, with only a report on March 9 quoting administration intelligence officials on how hard it would be to intervene militarily in Syria, which the latter view as firmly under al Assad’s control, and on March 10 only a short wire story on the momentous events underway in Syria. It appears that they have no one on the scene covering the story. U.S. coverage of foreign events has been growing weaker over recent years, but the idea that the Post could do so poorly in reporting on an issue of such importance is disheartening indeed. See The Trenchant Observer, “Our Dimming Vision of World Affairs”, January 2, 2010.
In contrast to the plan described in the reported March 10 Arab League statement, it will be recalled that the November 2, 2011 peace plan adopted by the Arab League provided for the following:
CAIRO: Syria has agreed to an Arab League plan to end the country’s crisis, in particular pledging to end repression of protests during which, according to the United Nations, more than 3,000 people have been killed since mid-March.
Following are the main points of the Arab plan:
1: – Complete halt to the violence, whatever its origin, to protect Syrian civilians.
2: – Release of people detained as a result of the recent events.
3: – Withdrawal of every type of military presence from towns and residential districts.
4: – Allow concerned organizations from the Arab League, Arab and international media to move freely throughout Syria and find out the reality of the situation.
According to the text of the plan, “after tangible progress is achieved by the Syrian government in applying the terms of the four preceding points,” the Arab ministerial committee will have contacts and consult with the government and various Syrian opposition bodies. The aim of these will be “to prepare a conference of national dialogue within two weeks.”
The plan does not stipulate the exact date for the military withdrawal nor when the two-week period should begin.
Arab diplomats say that Damascus wants the talks to take place in Syria, something the opposition categorically refuses.
The Arab League has suggested that initially the talks take place in Cairo.
–The Daily Star (Beirut), November 3, 2011.
In four months, estimates of the number killed in Syria have risen from 3,000 to 8,000 or 8,500. That is, while diplomats talked, and al-Assad proceeded with his murderous repression, some 5,000 or more people have died. That is the “collateral damage” which has resulted from inaction by the international community, what we like to think of as “the civilized world”.
As military leaders in Washington argue to Congress that any air attacks such as those called for by Senator John McCain on March 5 would involve the infliction of significant collateral damage and civilian casualties, they should bear in mind the collateral damage that inaction has already caused, and will certainly cause in the future until al-Assad is stopped.
McCain’s speech is closely reasoned, and makes a very compelling case for immediate military intervention led by the U.S. to bring al-Assad’s ongoing of war crimes and crimes against humanity to a prompt halt. It is must reading.
As the interminable diplomatic dance proceeds, let us all keep our eyes fixed firmly on what is actually happening on the ground, as thousands of people are being slaughtered for the crime of insisting on their exercise of fundamental human rights.
The Trenchant Observer
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