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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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.