Chasing mirages

United Nations and Arab League envoy for the crisis in Syria Kofi Annan (L) speaks during a joint press conference with Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali Akbar Salehi (R) in Tehran on July 10, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE)

Kofi Annan’s mission to deal with the crisis in Syria spans a significant point of time. If one were to take a “before and after” snapshot of the situation, one would notice that upon the conclusion of Annan’s mission, the level of death and destruction, economic deterioration and defections from the regime have all registered noticeable increases.

In the end, Annan decided to make a confusing double-barreled public declaration – that the mission had failed, and that the mission was not over.

In fact, Annan is no stranger to failure, since massacres in Rwanda, Somalia and Kosovo occurred on his watch, whether as a director of United Nations peacekeeping missions or heading the international body.

Annan’s latest “achievement” was a trip to Iran, to talk to officials about a future role for the Islamic Republic in solving the Syrian crisis.

It was a case of chasing a mirage, since Annan had no business to expect that his talks in Tehran would serve any useful purpose. Did the former secretary-general of the U.N. believe that Iranian officials were on the verge of issuing some type of concessions vis-a-vis their strongest allies in the region, namely the regime in Damascus?

If the Iranians are genuinely interested in such a deal, there is going to be a steep price, and Annan is not the one who can pay it.

Meanwhile, veteran members of Syria’s opposition, based inside the country, recently visited Moscow to sound out Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over what should happen next in Syria.

Again, the spectacle of people chasing a mirage.

Is there some new development, unseen by the rest of the world, that would see Russia suddenly engaged in significant horse-trading that involves its closest ally in the Middle East? Like Annan, the Syrian opposition figures were in a position of being unable to deliver when it comes to the price that Russia would demand in return. Did they suddenly receive a signal that Moscow was suddenly going to stop acting like a superpower interested in protecting its national interests, and instead act out of a deep concern with stopping human rights violations?

After these two visits, the scene now shifts to the Security Council, which will debate the latest resolution on Syria – Russia has already indicated its opposition to any action that involves the threat of further sanctions on Damascus.

The essential point is that a troika of evil has taken shape, in the form of Annan, China and Russia, and the Security Council itself. The Arab League, with its regular endorsement of this dysfunctional political process, can be counted as a junior member.

Meanwhile, the charade will continue, as more and more Syrians lose their lives. The only achievement thus far has been wide-scale pessimism on the part of Syrians who might have hoped that someone, somewhere, was working seriously to end their tragedy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 12, 2012, on page 7.




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