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Failure cemented
International peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi speaks to the media after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus December 24, 2012. (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
International peace envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi speaks to the media after meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus December 24, 2012. (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)
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U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has completed his latest, and it is hoped his last, mission to Damascus, supposedly to contribute to ending Syria’s crisis.

Brahimi held a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and afterward issued a series of bland, diplomatic statements, perhaps in the hope that he will be invited back at some point in the future.

Although it is difficult to know with exact certainty what the two men discussed, the meeting in Damascus appears to be something that could have been conducted via email. Judging by what was said afterward, the regime is not interested in making any significant moves in a promising direction – this is despite the fact that Brahimi was obliged to travel through Lebanon, as rebels now hold the area around Damascus airport.

When Brahimi took up his post, there were approximately 10,000 Syrian men, women and children who were alive. His latest trip just happened to coincide with the news of massacres of civilians. This has been a steady feature of the tragedy in Syria, where news of the imminent arrival of certain foreign guests, or military observers, causes people to wonder if they will be alive to see the end of the event in question.

One may respect Brahimi's perseverance, but the veteran Algerian diplomat and everyone else are aware that it’s an impossible mission . It would be better for Brahimi to drop the pretense, and salvage the final phase of his distinguished career.

Syrian officials are fond of saying that they want a solution that is made in Syria, based on the notion that the “reforms” and “dialogue” they have overseen actually mean something. If one assumes that Brahimi and Assad actually discussed something new and significant, then what does one make of the immediate departure for Moscow by Syrian officials from the Foreign Ministry? The regime appears to have no problem with a solution that is partly made in Moscow, not Damascus; Brahimi should drop any idea that going to Syria for meetings is fruitful.

In the end, Brahimi'’ journey to Syria saw the country’s information minister state that he and his people were unaware of the visit. These diplomatic encounters are used by the regime to buy time, and with each meeting, government troops seem to unleash even more firepower and violence in their crackdown. Does Brahimi truly want his name associated with the international community’s stumbling response to the war in Syria?

The international community, and its envoy, should declare their failure and pull out of the effort, unless there is a stunning secret piece of information that remains hidden from the public. For now, all of the options appear to involve Assad’s remaining in power, in some shape or form, and everyone knows that the Syrian people will not accept this. The task is to stop the bloodshed and build a better political future for Syria; Brahimi and his calendar of meetings give no indication that the mission will succeed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2012, on page 7.
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