Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Kofi Annan’s Test

by Elliott Abrams
May 29, 2012


Kofi Annan arrived in Syria today. His peace plan is in ruins, all the more visibly after this weekend’s atrocities: the killing of hundreds in the village of Houla. Annan called this “an appalling crime” that “shocked and horrified” him. He has also said that the Assad regime has failed to implement the peace plan he devised.

But now what? Can it be that even this mass killing willl have no impact beyond a bit of weekend hand-wringing? The Annan plan, and his “mediation” efforts as a whole, are a facade behind which Assad hides while killing civilians, and behind which the United States government and EU leaders hide to justify doing nothing very useful. Assad is not afraid of Kofi Annan.

We will know in a few days whether Annan goes doggedly, indeed blindly, forward or salvages his own reputation by declaring his efforts at an end and demanding international action against Assad. Were he to do so, action might actually follow; it would be difficult for governments to turn away and dismiss his conclusions.

So this week is a test for the former Secretary-General. He may be remembered for this sorry turn in Syria–or for demanding that governments face the truth and help the people of Syria put an end to the murderous Assad regime.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by roger bowden

    Given that Annan’s mission was a lowest common denominator action that most analysts appear to understand had zero chance of succeeding, its failure has been a foregone conclusion. Why Annan even took the job in the first place is unexplained for he must have known neithr the Assad regime, nor the numerous insurgents, had any intent to abide by a cease-fire. If the Balkans taught us anything, it should be that without all parties to the conflict agreeing, negotiations are futile. The insurgents were not part of the deal, and many have said they had no intention of being bound by the cease-fire…ergo it did not exist.

    To be fair, while Kofi was the one who got the Assad gov’t to agree to the peace plan, it was endorsed by the UNSC, the body of whihc Annan was/is a representative. Thus the peace plan is not his but the UNs.

    The unanswered question is whether the international community (IC) has a Plan B. If Annan decides the agreement he negotiated (with only one side in the conflict) is over, the IC would be backed into a corner. Even if Russia and/or China abstained from furhter UNSCRs that allow for intervention, who is going to do it? Turkey can’t do it on its own for a variety of reasons; there is no appetite within NATO for another military mission, especially one that could involve boots on the ground; and with the US, in an election year, it is certainly in no position to lead a military intervention. The GCC states will continue to pay with money but are not capable of doing much more; and if they supported the insurgents, their own legitimacy could be questioned at home. More to the point, what faction or factions would besupported by the UN/IC? There are many players active in Syria at the moment, many are not ones the West would want to support.

    This is far from a black and white issue, and for many, Assad’s regime’s survivalj would be convenient.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    By now , it’s apparent that Annan is a fool on a fool’s mission . What happened in Houla last week-end is tragically emblematic of how Assad governs . Make no mistake ; if Assad thought that the murder of 20,000 innocents in a single day would ensure the continuation of his regime , he would do so with out a second thought .

    To think that the UN will be an effective agent in stopping these atrocities is an equally foolish notion . Ditto the notion that the Obama administration will offer a whit of forceful leadership to stem this veritable tidalwave of innocent blood . As Mr. Abrams noted in his previous blog post the word “disgrace” is quite appropriate .

  • Posted by Eli G

    i’m sorry, but I have had a problem taking Kofi Annan seriously following the so called massacre in Jenin in March of 2002 (that didn’t happen… reminder… 52 Palestinians, mostly fighters killed — 26 IDF soldiers dead during Operation Defensive Shield. This was one of the bloodiest and costliest months to Israelis during the Second Intifada).

    He (Mr. Annan – then Secretary General of the U.N. and not a special envoy) was all too quick to jump on the let’s beat up on and blame Israel bandwagon by making the following remark; “can it be that the entire world is wrong and only Israel is right”….

    he looked to happy shaking hands in his photo-ops today in Damascus.

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