- Last Updated: 11:59 PM, April 5, 2012
- Posted: 10:25 PM, April 5, 2012
Former UN chief Kofi Annan yesterday gave a first public account of his US-backed mission to Syria. Guess what: It’s a mess.
But Annan’s futile activity as special Syria envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League is convenient for everyone involved, so his charade of playing diplomatic footsie with a murderous tyrant will likely go on a while longer.
In yesterday’s televised address, Annan informed the General Assembly that by next Thursday, 6 a.m. Damascus time, he expects “all parties” in Syria to stop shooting. What if they don’t? Well, Annan will presumably monitor them yet again.
Appropriately, when the fires fail to cease on Thursday, he’ll be in Tehran. The Iranian regime has lavished funds, arms and logistical support on Assad throughout his year-long war on his citizens, which by some assessments has already murdered more than 10,000 Syrians.
True to his long career of treating tyrants and democratically-elected leaders with equal reverence, Annan (as a Western diplomat put it to me yesterday) really “wants to believe” that his Syria plan will work.
But how could it?
His most prominent achievement to date was dropping a key demand of an earlier peace plan, namely the Arab League’s call (endorsed by the UN General Assembly) for Assad to step aside before anything else happens.
Instead, Annan wants everyone to first stop shooting, and then start a gradual path to a “Syrian-led” reform process. But first things first, he said yesterday: “All points of the plan are crucial, but one is most urgent: the need for a cessation of violence.”
Remember, the Assads have for decades perfected the art of negotiating endlessly with anyone who’ll fall for rosy promises. And, behold, Annan reported yesterday that Syria’s rulers not only agreed to his plan — they told him their armed forces have already started a “partial withdrawal” from three major cities. They assured him that “certain steps are underway” to allow 21 journalists to enter Syria. Why, they even have plans to release some detainees “within a few weeks” of the ceasefire.
Except no one really expects any ceasefire next week — and Assad will then blame the rebels for the “failure.”
For now, Damascus’ carnage is intensifying. Our own UN ambassador, Susan Rice, tweeted yesterday that “What we know, as opposed to what the Gov of Syria has said, is that [Wednesday] was one of the more violent days of late in #Syria,” with at least 100 people reportedly killed.
So Washington knows perfectly well that negotiating a ceasefire with Assad is futile. It’s merely hoping that Annan, who’s revered by enthusiasts of multilateral cooperation, will expose Damascus’ true intentions — at which point the Syrian government’s international supporters (Russia) will have to join hands and help force Assad out.
Others are happy to let Annan play diplomacy too. Turkey isn’t willing (yet) to use its military to carve “humanitarian zones” inside Syria. The Europeans are ambivalent about arming the rebels, as the wealthy Gulf Arabs demand. Qatar and Saudi Arabia don’t want to confront their Western allies. And Russia and China are happy that they’re free to keep supporting Assad.
Annan, who’s already gathered a posse of former UN bureaucrats,plans next to send a team of observers to Syria to monitor the ceasefire — a time-waster that will merely prolong the international stall.
President Obama waited months before declaring Assad unfit to rule. Now that his re-election campaign is heating up, none of his advisers dares advocate any bold move that could lead to heavy involvement in foreign affairs. Don’t expect his administration to do anything on Syria.
But passivity — even under the pretense of heavy diplomatic activity — is dangerous. By letting Syria’s criminal war fester, strengthening Iran and weakening anyone hoping for true spring in the Arab world, we risk becoming like Kofi Annan: a polite citizen of the world who’d rather allow atrocities to run their course than be so indecorous as to break consensus.Follow @NYPostOpinion