It is time to set Lakhdar Brahimi free. After a year's service as envoy for the United Nations and Arab League to Syria, the veteran Algerian mediator faces the final breakdown of his efforts to end the war. Disillusioned with both the Syrian government and its opponents, he came close to resigning in May. Since then he has hung on, mainly because his departure would look like an admission that a peace deal is impossible. His demeanor suggests that he is painfully conscious of the hopelessness of his situation.
When it comes to Syria, the United Nations is stuck. You could almost be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the extraordinary number of meetings, investigations, and resolutions currently devoted to resolving a crisis that has left more than 70,000 dead and raised the specter of chemical warfare.
The UN's mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) marked its thirty-fifth anniversary last week (ironically, the first "I" in UNIFIL stands for Interim). With the Syria civil war raging next door, it's been a traumatic time for UN peacekeeping efforts in the region, which include UNIFIL and the even older UNDOF mission (tasked with monitoring the disputed Golan Heights).
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sounded a gloomy note on the prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough on Syria, telling reporters today at Turtle Bay that U.N.-backed efforts to curtail the violence were proving elusive.
Lakhdar Brahimi has been the United Nations and Arab League envoy for Syria for less than five. But while his chances of orchestrating a peace deal are now vanishingly small, he should not quit quite yet.