The rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been seeking recognition, money and resources for months. Now that they’ve started making significant progress toward ousting him, they might get some.
United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters, not only is Syria being destroyed “bit by bit,” the conflict is pushing the region into a situation that is “extremely bad and extremely important for the entire world.
One year after Kofi Annan presented his six-point plan for ending the Syrian civil war, it can only be called a failure. But it is necessaryto recall the situation facing the UN-Arab League envoy and his team in early 2012.
Russia is trying to look tough at the U.N. Security Council this week, promising to reject a resolution backed by the European Union, the U.S. and the Arab League that calls for a political transition in Syria to end the violence there.* This is a new phase in Moscow’s efforts to defend its friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which included blocking an earlier resolution in October that threatened U.N. sanctions against Damascus. Yet while Russia can use its veto power to paralyze the council again, the diplomatic battle over Syria has highlighted its weakness in global affairs.
In trying to think through what outsiders should do to stop the killing in Syria, the only unambiguous issue is the moral one. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is perpetrating crimes against humanity upon his own people. The “responsibility to protect,” unanimously adopted at the U.N. in 2005, stipulates that when states fail to protect their own citizens from mass atrocities, other states have an affirmative responsibility to act. Only a gross cynic—say, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov—could argue that Assad has not triggered this international obligation.
When United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon selected his predecessor Kofi Annan last week as his envoy to mediate the ongoing crisis in Syria, most observers thought it was an obvious choice. But Ban’s decision represents an important twist in a sometimes complex relationship between the two men -- and a high-stakes attempt to maintain the U.N.’s role in the Middle East, where it has been active since the 1940s.
After months of aggressive debates over the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council is starting to calm down. Last week the council released a statement supporting Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria -- which calls for a U.N.-supervised cease-fire and an “inclusive Syrian-led political process” -- signaling the change of mood. The Western powers reached consensus with Russia and China on the text, toning down and cutting controversial passages, after Moscow called for daily cease-fires to let humanitarian aid reach suffering Syrians.