Kofi Annan Mission to Save Bashar al Assad is Doomed

Bashar Al Assad must be rubbing his hands with glee. His heavily armed security forces and henchmen are killing the Syrian people right under the noses of the UN observers and the noses and ears of the silent witnesses, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. The UN and NATO are unwittingly providing cover for the massacres in Syria.

Since the Syrian regime accepted Annan’s UN and Arab League sponsored six-point plan on 27th March 2010l, the regime has killed some 2000 people. The cease-fire plan for Syria was endorsed by the United States and other Security Council members because it could win support from Russia and China, which have so far blocked any condemnation of the Assad regime or any steps to deter the regime.

Kofi Annan, the former UN Chief, said on 10th April that the Ceasefire plan is still alive. A day later, on 11th April, the Guardian reported that Kofi Annan said that the Syrian government told him that it will respect the Ceasefire. On 25th April the BBC quoted Kofi Annan saying “the Syria violence is still unacceptable says Kofi Annan.”

Astonishingly on the 4th May, the Los Angeles Time reported: “Kofi Annan says Syria Ceasefire on track.” Four days later, according to Al Jazeera “Kofi Annan warns of civil war.”

Ban Ki Moon, The UN Secretary General, sided with the Syrian regime on Friday 16th May when he blamed al-Qaeda for Syria bombings without waiting first for the facts. A Daily Telegraph headline said it all “Ban Ki-Moon Boosts Assad by Blaming al-Qaeda for Syria bombings.”

On 22nd May, Ban Ki Moon expressed concern that violence from the 14-month conflict in Syria could spread to neighbouring Lebanon. Quite right, but what can the UN do about It?

The NATO Chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, repeated on Sunday 20th May something he said many times before; “NATO has no intention to intervene in Syria.” Translated into Arabic it reads: “Look Mr. Bashar Al-Assad you have a free hand to kill more and more Syrian people and nothing will happen to you or to your regime.”

Mr. Rasmussen said the same thing on 17th Feb and 18th Feb, also on 27th March and 4th May. Rasmussen spoke a day after G8 nations said a “political transition” was needed to end the crisis in Syria, where monitors say more than 12,000 people have died in a government crackdown since March 2011.

Wouldn’t it be wise for Mr. Rasmussen to maintain some form of ambiguous silence to keep the Syrian regime guessing or to keep it on its toes rather than issuing unwise and frequent assurances that NATO has no intention of doing this or that.

NATO governments came under criticism for backing an air war in Libya. As far as Libya was concerned, if it had not been for NATO’s decisive intervention, Muammar Gaddafi would be still battling his own people and would have killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

I would like to ask Mr. Kofi Annan, don’t you think it is now time to throw in the towel and say bluntly that the Syrian regime has failed to implement a single element of the six- point plan. There is recognition in the Middle East that the Kofi Annan Peace Plan has failed. The Saudi Foreign Minister has publicly stated that Annan’s efforts have failed and the Syrian Security Forces are still killing people and shelling residential areas.

I argue that Annan must call for a press conference and declare the end of his plan and blame the Syrian regime for the failure.

Mr. Annan is scheduled to visit Damascus Tuesday and I predict that he will come back carrying more vague promises from the regime that it is respecting the UN sponsored plan but it is busy fighting al-Qaeda.

To stop the butchery of the Syrian people, the least that can be done is for the US and NATO to establish safe no fly zones and to exert pressure on Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar to provide tangible support for the Free Syrian Army. The military hardware to be supplied must include portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. Non lethal weapons will not bring down the regime.

Russia and Iran, the only allies of the regime, must stop supplying Syria with arms and military advice. According to a New York Times editorial Tuesday April 10th, “Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab states are supplying the opposition with weapons, and the United States has offered nonlethal assistance, including communications equipment, night-vision goggles and intelligence.” This has proved woefully inadequate.

If the status quo continues to prevail, the dreaded Al-Qaeda presence in Syria, which is non-existent, will become a reality and this will only complicate the picture and give the regime the perfect pretext to continue with its ruthless crackdown against the civilian population, which demands a regime change and freedom.

Middle East watchers are warning of civil war and chaos. The Arab League mission had failed to stop the killing machine of the Syrian regime. The Kofi Annan Peace Plan is all but dead and he knows it, but is reluctant to admit it publicly. Kofi Annan must announce failure and quit.

Link for a cartoon in the London Independent Newspaper

Nehad Ismail
Nehad Ismail is a writer and broadcaster, who writes about issues related to the Middle East from his home in London.