Kofi Annan has announced his resignation from an assignment he was conducting on behalf of the United Nations and the Arab League. He attributed his decision not to renew his mandate, which is due to expire at the end of August, to “increased militarization on the ground.”
Annan explained: “The severity of the humanitarian costs of the conflict, and the exceptional threats posed by this crisis to international peace and security, justified the attempts to secure a peaceful transition to a political settlement, however daunting the challenge. The increasing militarization on the ground and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council has fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role.”
What Annan complains about was evident at the time of his designation last April. His “smoke screen” assignment was clearly mission impossible right from the start. It was based on a stark contradiction. While it did address the regime of Bashar Assad as legitimate and as a recognized member of the United Nations, it asked the Assad government, at the same time, to withdraw its military and security forces from Syrian cities and urban centers and to stop using force against the opposition, without demanding the latter, which was already armed, to submit to the rule of law.
The way the Annan mission was set, just after a similar arrangement was unsuccessfully tried by the Arab League, has left ample room for the Syrian government to justify continued and excessive force against what had started as a peaceful popular uprising, as a duty to protect its land and it citizens from foreign terrorist gangs armed and financed by external powers. While at the beginning we all ridiculed that Syrian narrative as pure distortion, it turned out to be the most explicit reality of the Syrian messy situation.
Earlier this week, news reports revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had signed a covert directive in the past several months, according to the CNN, authorizing U.S. support for Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. That was an authorization to the CIA and other organizations to finance, arm and offer support to the rebels.
While such clandestine work was under way, the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, the office of the UN secretary general, The Friends of Syria, European powers and other U.N. organizations were busy pretending to reach a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis, based on a smooth transition of power to a new democratic setup.
This is shocking, as well as deeply undermining to an already depleted and bankrupt U.N. system.
For the Assad regime to be unanimously condemned for suppressing its people, for running the country as a private farm, for depriving Syrian citizens of their dignity and rights is something, but to condemn the Syrian government for defending itself against what turned out to be truly a foreign conspiracy is another thing.
Officially, and despite the fact that the regime is crumbling, until this minute Syria is a member of the United Nations. It has sovereign rights that are recognized by international law. No other country has the right to intervene in what could be defined as an internal matter. Any other country of those that are supporting the proxy war in Syria would have acted in the same manner if subjected to the same conditions.
Russia and China have been repeatedly blamed for not allowing the Security Council to act against the Assad regime. They, with other regional powers, such as Iran, have done that openly. Had they blocked objective international action meant to address the Syrian issue on the basis of international law and selfless concern, they would have deserved the blame leveled at them for doing so. But if their action is the natural response to others’ disguised designs meant to hijack the Syrian people’s genuine rebellion for their own unrelated interests, they have every right to play the role of an international rival seeking to salvage some benefit from the Syrian wreckage.
That does not, however, mean they are more correct than their rivals. Both sides are wrong. Both sides will end up as losers. Negative regional consequences will take years to overcome. Syria is likely another Afghanistan after the war against the Soviet Union and another Somalia.
The Syrian people would have prevailed if they kept their struggle for liberation and rights peaceful and purely Syrian. It should have been entitled for unlimited international and regional support, but not the kind we have seen. It did not, and as a result, it probably lost its cause.
The Assad regime could have saved the country enormous destruction and the people huge sacrifices by listening to the voice of reason, introducing urgently required reform. It did not, and missed precious opportunities. The Assad regime failed to even understand the meaning of the conspiracy it kept crowing about.
Syria has been turned into a battlefield of foreign forces and elements seeking their own objectives, not the Syrian people’s. They will all lose. But before reaching that terrible conclusion, Syria will be destroyed. Its people will be shattered and scattered all over the region as refugees in miserable conditions for years.
No amount of foreign support will be able to save Assad and his regime. But his demise will not leave behind a better situation, unfortunately.
The mess and the imprudent muddling in the Syrian affairs confused the issue, to the point where it is no more possible to see things in their proper perspective. We should all, in this troubled region, prepare for another tragedy on top of the many we already have.
The writer is a columnist at The Jordan Times, where the article first appeared on Aug. 8, 2012