As Syria's Dr General President For Life promises the flogging will continue til morale improves - it's high time to cut straight to it shall we?
What a shock it must have been for Kofi Annan to realize that the Syrian regime and opposition agree over nothing except to largely ignore his splendid little plan for ending the conflict in Syria.
Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy, is no naïf. He did what all good diplomats do: He added a splash of reciprocity, a pinch of incentives, an aroma of consensus, and presto, he presented us with a more refined version of a failed Arab League plan crafted last November. The core of the Arab proposal was that the Syrian regime should withdraw its forces from cities, put an end to its violence against protesters, release prisoners, and begin a dialogue with the opposition. Yet President Bashar Assad could never implement such a plan, since it would encourage millions of Syrians to go out into the streets and call for his head, without fear of retribution.
Once Assad starts loosening his military grip on society, he will be finished. He has promised to respect a cease-fire as of April 10, but still hopes to beat the Syrians senseless to earn himself a breather and transact from a position of strength, with an opposition he selects. But that ambition is going nowhere. It took a month for his army to crush Baba Amr, which involved deploying elite units. Yet Homs is far from pacified, let alone the provinces of Idlib, Damascus and Deraa.
Assad rule is crumbling. The regime is on a conveyor belt of repression, and will be overwhelmed if it stops. Annan sought, somehow, to do two things simultaneously: neutralize the fighting on the ground while creating an environment that would facilitate the removal of the Syrian president through peaceful means – a “soft landing” as some have described it. However, that did not make a good plan. In fact, it has made a plan so unrealistic that neither Assad nor the Syrian opposition has any intention of implementing it.
The most contentious facet of Annan’s plan was that he seriously expected the opposition, after the slaughter by the Syrian army and security forces of between 10,000 and 15,000 people, to sit at the same table with the individuals responsible. The opposition is divided, but groups willing to engage with Assad are well aware that they would be discredited if they actually did so. In other words, Annan’s call for an inclusive Syrian dialogue was unrealistic, and his goal of accelerating prisoner releases and widening the opposition’s margin to demonstrate against the regime was unworkable.
What is the way out? Already late last year, when the Arab and international diplomatic maneuvers over Syria began, it was plain that Assad was finished. The sole basis for a comprehensive solution is his departure into exile, with his family, followed by negotiations leading to a smooth transition of authority. Anything else is a waste of time, and Annan’s stumbling project has again shown us why.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned this week that the Syrian opposition would never defeat Assad’s army. It doesn’t need to. If it manages merely to impose a military status quo and hold territory, Assad’s options, and Moscow’s, will shrink. It’s hard not to believe that the Homs offensive received a Russian green light, explicitly or implicitly, along with a fresh supply of heavy weapons and ammunition. That is why Istanbul was a success in rejecting Moscow’s efforts to deactivate the Free Syrian Army.
The single workable strategy for Annan is to explicitly push for regime change in Syria, and to convince Russia that there is no substitute. The Russians must sense that it’s time for Plan B in Damascus.
Pic - "Inheriting Syria"