July 13, 2012

Annan, UN Out of Excuses In Syria

Beneath the international outcry directed at Bashar al-Assad and his murderous regime may lie the potential truth of Traymseh village. Up to 200 people have reportedly fallen victim to a coordinated ground and air assault by Syrian military forces, the latest massacre of a ruthless slaughter, but the exact details remain shrouded by the fog of war. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined many Western and Gulf officials by condemning al-Assad for "deliberately murdering" the lives of ”over 200 men, women, and children," except she recently exaggerated a helicopter story to squeeze Moscow's nerves (the plot failed). 

The regime and oppositional sources also seem to have reached a loose agreement over Traymseh's events. State media boasted that a "big number of terrorists" had been killed in a "qualitative operation," complete with pictures of their seized armaments. Conversely, local activists report that many of the casualties were members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), with pure civilians only accounting for some of the dead. This information may prove false as identities begin to surface, and other activists claim that government forces mowed down dozens of fleeing villagers.

If Syrian forces did surround a hundred or more FSA guerrillas, some of these men were still civilians when they died in combat.

Kofi Annan's visit cannot be verified as the shooter of Traymseh's massacre, but he is splattered by the blood of revolutionaries. Massacres and suspicious bombings have become a normal companion of the UN's actions, part of al-Assad's tug of war with the international community. With FSA units becoming more active in the village, al-Assad perceived Annan's Monday visit as another window of opportunity to crush the militarized opposition. Annan would express "shock" on Friday, four days after publicly accepted al-Assad's commitment to the UN's six-point plan. 

“I am shocked and appalled by news coming out of the village of Treimseh, near Hama, of intense fighting, significant casualties and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters,” Annan said. “This is in violation of the government’s undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and its commitment to the six-point plan.” 

Retrospect isn't needed to see that his meeting with al-Assad was a mistake, and Annan's new statements indicate that the UN remains trapped between a costly intervention and the illusions of diplomacy. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and company are trying to hammer out this dilemma by guilting Moscow and Beijing into pulling their political life-lines out of al-Assad's regime: "Inaction becomes a license for further massacres." Unfortunately Ki-moon returned straight to an idealistic world by telling reporters that Traymseh's assault, "casts serious doubts on President Assad's recent expression of commitment to the six-point plan in his meeting with the Joint Special Envoy." 

That doubt had already solidified when Annan met with al-Assad on Monday.

Guilty as the Russians and Chinese are in prolonging Syria's conflict, the UN's condemnation serves to conceal its own errors and counterrevolutionary plots. The body initially deferred its response to the Arab League in a futile attempt to mask Western desires for regime change. This process laid the groundwork for the UN's eventual response, but it also costs thousands of Syrian lives and has yet to deliver any benefits to the revolutionaries. The UN's political transition intends to hand off power to one of al-Assad's vice presidents in order to facilitate a "national dialogue" and elections, and this strategy may be only non-violent path out of a civil war. Problematically, foreign powers (America, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China) lack the unison that forced the Gulf Cooperation Council's "transition" upon Yemen's revolutionaries. 

U.S. and Saudi support of Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain's counterrevolutions add another dimension to Syria's conflict - the hypocritical dimension. 

Moscow has naturally balked at Washington's idea of a political transition because the Obama administration continues to cherry-pick the Arab revolutionary wave. The Russians simply won't give up Syria on American terms, and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov would repeat his country's opposition to sanctions and intervention on Friday. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich spoke as though the FSA was solely responsible for Traymseh's crimes

“Without anticipating the results of the investigation of the crime, on which we insist, we would like to stress that we have no doubt that this atrocity benefits the forces that do not seek peace but obstinately keep trying to sow the seeds of sectarian strife and civil conflict in Syria, and those for whom the grief and suffering of the Syrian people mean nothing." 

Western and Gulf powers must intensify their actions on some level in response to Traymseh, otherwise al-Assad will believe that the UN Security Council is never going to act. This doesn't mean rushing into an intervention, but inaction will only escalate Syria to a point that the international community must act to preserve regional stability. At the least, UN officials cannot meet with al-Assad and act as though everything is OK - unless Annan wants to hear from Facebook pages and protests that “Syria is Annan’s second Rwanda." Scrapping his plan may come next now that Abdulbaset Sieda, the new chairman of the Syrian National Council (SNC), labeled it a "thing of the past." 

And the White house must change its own behavior in the region if its occupants expect Moscow to do the same.

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