Annan Is Too Late |
Al Hayat - 01 May, 2012
Author: Ghassan Charbel
Kofi Annan came too late, much too late. It would have been much better if he had made his appearance a year ago instead. Perhaps a ceasefire was possible then, in addition to withdrawing heavy military pieces and forces from population centers. Perhaps it was even possible to release prisoners, allow foreign reporters to travel around the country, and start a dialogue over reforms on the basis of some change but a lot of continuity.
A year ago, there were fewer funerals, whether of civilians or military personnel. There were also fewer detainees, fewer devastated cities and towns, and fewer ‘Friends of Syria’. And there were fewer ‘armed gangs’, fewer abandoned embassies, and fewer Arab and Western sanctions in place.
A year ago, it was possible to exit the tunnel. This could have been done by punishing officers here and there, and by bringing the Baath Party to retirement without anyone calling for its ‘eradication’ - as was the case with its Iraqi branch. It was possible at the time to appoint an independent figure as prime minister, a figure that is not produced by the kitchens of the Baath and the security apparatuses. It was also possible to arrange a smooth process to rein in the security services, and avoid these terrifying scenes we have seen on television screens. Indeed, a year ago, the ceiling of the opposition’s demands was low, and the fire could have possibly been contained before it spread.
As I reread Annan’s plan, I get a feeling that he is much too late. Moscow may regret later the lack of vision it has shown. If it had helped formulate a plan of this kind earlier, it would have helped the Syrian regime avert its present situation, and it would have itself avoided its current predicament. It is still too early to say that Moscow has succeeded in exploiting the Syrian crisis to remind everyone of its interests, positions and role. I believe that Washington is relieved to see Russia colliding with the sentiments of the Arab and Islamic majority, and the same applies to both Iran and Hezbollah. In truth, there are some who believe that it was Russia’s desire to get out of this situation that has pushed it to support Annan’s plan.
Annan’s plan, to begin with, is not good news for the Syrian regime, although the mere fact that it was adopted confirms that there is no plan for military intervention under either the umbrella of UN or the NATO. The plan, in and of itself, and given the international consensus over it, effectively implies that Syria is now under international observation. It also means that the parties that support it do not buy into the official Syrian account, which claims that what is happening is merely a confrontation between law enforcement forces and ‘armed terrorist groups’ driven by a foreign agenda.
Anna’s plan came too late, and only after all sides in this crisis had gone too far. By sides I mean the regime, the opposition, and also the major regional and international powers. What was possible a year ago seems almost impossible today. The ability to make concessions declined greatly during the outgoing period. The clashes have severely damaged the regime’s standing, and that of its symbols and institutions, especially the armed forces. They also damaged the relationship among the communities of Syria. It is now clear that it has become difficult for both the regime and the opposition to back down, when ten thousand people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Kofi Annan was too late. The requirements of his plan are more than the regime can bear. It is difficult for the authorities to ceasefire and withdraw their military pieces, if that means that protesters could go back to occupying public squares. Fire was opened in the first place to prevent the emergence of a Syrian version of Benghazi and to prevent million-strong protests. Further, how can the regime release prisoners when the opposition is still able to stage protests? How can the regime, after all that has happened, accept the right of peaceful assembly, and allow the independent foreign press to document events and accounts?
Meanwhile, the opposition believes that any dialogue with the regime should be exclusively over the features of the transitional phase. This simply means that Annan’s plan calls for the regime to accept all that it has been rejecting. It means that it is asking the regime to accept its own gradual dismantlement.
Clearly, Annan came too late. No one has a solution, and that is why everyone endorsed Annan’s plan. Nevertheless, his mission is extremely important and dangerous, because what comes after Annan is not like what came to be before him.