Saturday 31 March 2012

Why Annan will keep running around in circles

Kofi Annan and Ammar al-Qurabi

Kofi Annan’s Syria troubleshooting mission is doomed. The opinion is shared by prominent Syrian activist Ammar al-Qurabi, renowned Gulf author Mohammad Al Rumaihi and leading American-Lebanese political analyst Raghida Dergham.
Qurabi, a trained dentist who founded the Arab Human Rights Organization in Syria, tells today’s Beirut daily al-Joumhouria in an exclusive interview: “Annan’s initiative will fall flat without doubt. The regime will abort it. I have no doubt the regime will collapse by simply withdrawing the army from urban areas and respecting the right to demonstrate peacefully. This is because people are adamant on wanting (President Bashar al-) Assad to stand trial for crimes against humanity.”
According to Qurabi, “The regime can’t commit and implement the (Annan peace) plan. The regime previously endorsed the Arab peace initiative calling for reform and dialogue… I am afraid Annan would metamorphose into a new Dabi,” a reference to controversial Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Dabi who headed the Arab League's observer mission to Syria that turned into a fiasco.
Qurabi says, “Having already seen an Arab Dabi, we can expect a bigger Dabi with international cover. In any case, the regime will certainly not commit to any of his plan’s six points...”
The six points have been encapsulated as follows:
1.     UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians
2.     All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause
3.     Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons
4.     Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists
5.    Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully
6.     Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people
Rumaihi, a Kuwaiti professor of political sociology who has published more than 20 books on social and cultural change in the Gulf and Arab world, writes today in a news analysis for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat that Annan might make his six points palatable to the regime. “But the issue is not that simple. The regime in Syria has mastered Iran’s time-wasting recipe.” Proof is it has intensified, instead of scaled down, its crackdown on civilians.
“Annan’s plan is not only difficult to implement but impossible,” Rumaihi opines. “Acceptance of any of the points would undermine the regime. Its acceptance of more than one point would prove fatal. So can you imagine the consequences of the regime accepting all six points?”
Accordingly, what purpose does the Annan mission serve?
“A twofold purpose,” says Rumaihi. One, it helps Russia save face in that it does not require Assad to stand down. Two, it gives the regime time to stifle the opposition.
Filing from New York, Raghida Dergham concurs in her weekly column for pan-Arab al-Hayat, that Annan’s mission helps Damascus stall to buy time and Washington stonewall the Syrian opposition until after the U.S. presidential elections in November.