President Obama’s stated willingness to go it alone on Syria surprises those who followed him during the previous administration, when, as a senator, he derided George W. Bush’s commitment to multilateralism and questioned his “coalition of the willing” in Iraq.
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.
In the face of a U.N. Security Council deadlocked on Syria, the United States and its allies could seek other means of legitimizing any retaliatory strike they launch against Syria's government for last week's alleged gas attack on civilians.
More than 100,000 people have now been killed in the Syria civil war. The United States and Russia vowed in May to press for a follow up to a peace conference held in Geneva last year, which set out a transition plan. However, divisions between Syrian opposition groups and diplomatic hurdles thrown up by President Bashar al-Assad's government have blocked efforts to call a new meeting.