Kofi Annan’s new mission to Syria is among the toughest of his diplomatic career. Assad is no pushover and is not hesitant to use force to maintain his position in power—as his brutal assault on Homs shows.
When the United Nations sends peacekeepers to war zones, there are often excessive expectations about what they can achieve. By contrast, pessimism surrounds the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which is supposed to oversee a ceasefire and create space for talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its opponents. U.S. officials, having fought hard in the Security Council to maximize the mission's autonomy and authority,have warned that it is too weak to succeed.
Syria’s descent into civil war is accelerating, with reports of massacres coming in daily. But Russia and China are blocking a decisive response at the United Nations, just as they have since the middle of 2011.
Is the European Union about to engage in a proxy war in the Sahara? In late-July, European foreign ministers directed EU officials to come up with “concrete proposals” for supporting an African stabilization force in Mali. There’s no doubt that Mali needs stabilizing: Islamist separatists with links to al-Qaida have seized the north of the country, and the south has been in political turmoil since a coup in March.
The Syrian civil war is becoming simultaneously more brutal and more confusing. As the battle for Aleppo has dragged on and diplomatic efforts to forge a peace deal have been derailed, it has been hard to assess whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime are close to collapse or able to sustain a protracted war. Yet there is a growing sense that, if and when Assad falls, some sort of international peacekeeping force will likely be needed to prevent Syria from descending into worse chaos.