President Obama still relying on failed Annan "peace plan."
The United Nations Security Council met in a closed session on June 19th regarding the ongoing Syrian crisis. It heard from Maj. General Robert Mood, the commander of the three hundred unarmed UN observers who are supposed to monitor the situation in Syria but have been stymied. Herve Ladsous, the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping operations, also addressed the Security Council members.
Both men briefed the press following the Security Council meeting. To nobody's surprise, they expressed frustration with the continuing level of violence in Syria, which had caused Maj. General Mood to suspend the patrols of his monitors last week. The monitors remain in limbo, staying put in their current positions. Their current mandate is due to expire on July 20th. Whether the Security Council will decide to renew it is anyone's guess. Russia and China want to maintain its toothless status. France appears to be leading the charge to upgrade the mission somehow. In fact, on his way into the Security Council chamber, French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud indicated the possibility of moving towards a UN Charter Chapter 7 Security Council enforcement mandate. Considering the obstructionist stance taken to date by Russia and China against dealing firmly with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, France's idea is unlikely to go anywhere.
Meanwhile, Under Secretary General Ladsou continued to hold on to the fantasy that the six-point "peace plan" put together by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would actually work. Chinese UN Ambassador Li Baodong, June's President of the Security Council, also urged all parties to implement the plan "in its entirety."
All that Kofi Annan's efforts to mediate the conflict have accomplished was to give President al-Assad, who has verbally supported the peace plan, more time to crush his opposition. More than 3000 Syrians are said to have lost their lives since mid-April when Annan's plan was supposed to take effect. It is literally at a dead end.
Maj. General Mood in particular did not put all of the blame for the continuing violence on the Assad regime. Indeed, in saying that one of the factors that would influence his decision to lift the suspension of the observers' monitoring activities would be the commitment by both sides to the conflict to commit to allowing complete freedom of movement of the observers, he went out of his way to praise the Syrian government for its positive response. He added that the opposition had not yet responded.
Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, who also spoke to the press, singled out Maj. General Mood for praise in presenting what Assad's UN mouthpiece called a "balanced approach." He accused unnamed Western countries of wanting the Kofi Annan plan to fail so that they can accomplish their objective of regime change.
Ambassador Ja'afari ridiculed the notion that any Syrian government crackdown on the opposition was to blame for the violence. He repeatedly referred to a "Third Force" consisting of outsider armed terrorists, backed by countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. "Syria is committed to protecting the rights of 23 million civilians," he claimed.
I asked Ambassador Ja'afari to address reports of Russian arms flowing to Syria's military, including helicopter gunships. Without missing a beat, Ambassador Ja'afari said that it was Syria's right as an independent sovereign state to purchase whatever weapons they wanted from whomever they wanted. Needless to say, he did not deny that Russia was supplying the Assad regime with weaponry.
Russia's role in continuing to prop up the Assad regime does not appear to faze President Obama, by the way. During a press conference in Mexico following the conclusion of the G-20 Summit, Obama said the following about the Russians and Chinese, after acknowledging that they were not on the same page as the United States with regard to Syria:
"I wouldn't suggest that at this point the United States and the rest of the international community are aligned with Russia and China in their positions, but I do think they recognize the grave dangers of all-out civil war. I do not think they condone the massacres that we've witnessed. And I think they believe that everybody would be better served if Syria had a mechanism for ceasing the violence and creating a legitimate government."
Really? Does President Obama think the Assad regime separates out the arms it receives from Russia -- whose state-controlled arms dealer is the biggest arms supplier to Syria's government - and uses only non-Russian arms to carry out its massacres? To make matters even worse, Obama will not use Russia's hopes to join the World Trade Organization as leverage to get Moscow to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, particularly its flow of arms.
Finally, against all evidence, President Obama is still relying on the United Nations and the Kofi Annan "peace plan" as the solution:
"...it's important for the world community to work with the United Nations and Kofi Annan on what a political transition would look like. And my hope is, is that we can have those conversations in the coming week or two and that we can present to the world, but most importantly, to the Syrian people, a pathway whereby this conflict can be resolved."
Maybe President Obama should have a conversation with the survivors of the 1994 Rwandan massacre. Kofi Annan directed UN Peacekeeping Operations when the Rwandan genocide took place and, according to Canadian ex-General Roméo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda at the time, Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support.
How comforting it must be for the Syrian people to know that all they have going for them today in Syria is the discredited Kofi Annan peace plan and the United Nations.
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