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Citing the intransigence of the Assad regime and the lack of unity in the UN Security Council, Special Envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League Kofi Annan resigned his position effective at the end of the month. The former UN Secretary General is quitting at a time when violence in Syria has exploded into a full blown sectarian civil war, with atrocities being committed on both sides, and the major world powers now committed to their own proxy war, backing one side or the other in an increasingly chaotic and violent conflict.
Annan’s resignation also signals, for all intents and purposes, the end of diplomatic efforts to halt the conflict. Ban Ki-moon, the current UN Secretary General, says he will name a replacement for Annan but no one in the international community expects the next envoy to have any more luck in halting the violence than Annan did. There is a desultory debate in the UN General Assembly over a Syrian resolution that is already so watered down that in order to get a majority vote in that powerless body, sponsors have removed a demand for President Assad to step down and dropped a call for sanctions on Syria.
Meanwhile, the war has escalated almost exponentially since the blast that killed 4 key advisors to Assad on July 18. The emboldened Free Syrian Army (FSA) is tenaciously hanging on to positions in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the country’s commercial center, as government forces are shelling, bombing, strafing, and terrorizing the city of 2.5 million people. More than 250,000 refugees have poured out of the city and the FSA is pleading for humanitarian aid to feed and shelter the multitudes.
Annan’s futile efforts to stop the violence in Syria are added to other failures in his career that include an inability to stop the massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s, the Rwandan genocide where 800,000 were murdered, the tragedy in Darfur where upwards of 450,000 were killed, and Iraq’s oil for food scandal that hit close to home when his own son was accused of profiting from Saddam Hussein’s multi-billion dollar bribery schemes. Each of those horrific events occurred either while he was serving as Secretary General of the UN, or head of the world body’s peacekeeping efforts in Rwanda when he failed to act to prevent the slaughter of Tutsi tribesmen.
But Annan has a point. His mission was doomed from the start because the Security Council and the world community was unable to come together to address the tragedy. The lion’s share of the blame for that can be placed directly on Russia and China, whose vetoes of Security Council resolution after resolution gave Bashar Assad cover to carry out his war against his own people. But there is plenty of blame left for the United States, the European countries, and the Arab League, who clung for months to Annan’s moribund “peace plan” despite a mountain of evidence that it had failed almost as soon as it was negotiated last April.
This failure to face up to reality moved Senator John McCain to launch a powerful, accusatory speech on the Senate floor in which he pilloried the Obama administration for it’s faith in the Annan plan, which he said was “doomed to failure” from the start.
Isn’t it foolish to base your policy and non-intervention on the belief that somehow a former secretary general of the United Nations’ mission would succeed, when it was clear that the Syrian people were not going to be satisfied with the continuous barbarous regime of Bashar al-Assad?
McCain advocates arming the FSA — something the administration still says they are not prepared to do. Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, “Our position has not changed: We provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition,” adding, “We don’t believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what’s needed to help bring about a peaceful transition.”
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