Saturday 30 June 2012

Only smoke and mirrors in Geneva

Most Arab columnists believe today’s international conference in Geneva on the crisis in Syria, which was called by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, is a non-starter.
“Geneva illusions,” “Better see Annan fail than wait up for his triumph,” and “Annan’s new plan reverses solution priorities” are three typical titles of commentaries in this morning’s papers.
Rosanna Boumounsef, in her daily column for the independent Lebanese daily an-Nahar, describes the Geneva meeting as no more than an occasion to take a look at the new wrapping of an old Annan mission, hoping that the reshuffling of its priorities would keep it alive. Annan’s now-defunct six-point plan made the cessation of violence and deployment of observers the gateway to a political dialogue in Syria. His new roadmap – dubbed “Guidelines and Principles for a Syrian-led Transition” – now expects political dialogue and a transitional government of national unity to put an end to violence.
Boumounsef says several of Annan’s associates previously went through such tests in Lebanon and other hotspots. “They are adept at improvising phased solutions and they excel at buying time to salvage international missions that the big powers cannot pronounce dead lest they are accused of exacerbating conflict instead of dampening it.”
Satei’ Noureddin, writing about the “Geneva illusions” for Beirut’s pro-Syrian daily as-Safir, does not expect today’s conference to be a turning point in the search for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Instead, “it’s simply a new signal that the international community is not yet ready to put a stop to the crisis and remains on the lookout for added justifications to let the Syrians drown in their own blood.”
The conference idea, Noureddin explains, is “primarily an acknowledgement” of the failure of Annan’s earlier six-point plan and its appended UN observer mission. Collapse of the six-point called for an alternative political initiative that jumps straight to the long-term solution in that it lays the foundations for a transition to a pluralistic and democratic regime.
Noureddin says, “Even novice watchers of Syria’s internal conflict know this remains a dream if not an illusion. Specifically, President Bashar al-Assad’s interview with Iranian TV does not suggest he is ready to give up his security and military option or sacrifice his political reform agenda.”
Assad’s political reform timeline, Noureddine notes, has meanwhile “dropped to the level of a National Reconciliation Ministry in the new Syrian government that is ready to accept opposition applications for a resumption of dialogue under regime auspices.”
Unfortunately for the Syrians, Noureddin remarks, “the regime’s only option is security and military finality. That’s what Assad said explicitly. And that’s what prompts the opposition to regard such finality its sole recourse as well.”
In that light, “the Geneva conference becomes a bad diplomatic joke… Once more, the crisis in Syria will be returned to its roots. The international community will do everything possible to keep the Syria crisis contained within Syria’s borders, allowing the Geneva conference to dissipate any regional or international illusions about Syria’s future.”
Rajeh el-Khoury, who like Boumounsef writes for an-Nahar, says the meeting in Geneva “is of no consequence either one way or the other. It must be said, however, that four months into the Annan mission, which saw the killing of more than 3,000 people and the devastation of townships and neighborhoods, the mission’s greatest success would be an avowal of its failure.
“I would hasten to add,” writes Khoury, “that such avowal, coming after all the extra time allowed for bloodshed and tragedies, is the best success possible" because it would:
(1) Pressure the UN Security Council and the international community to assume their responsibilities.
(2) Quash the pretexts used by Moscow, which is hiding behind Annan and refusing any solution that sees Assad forced out.
(3) Leave Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin soaked in Syrian blood.
Khoury believes Moscow is clinging to Annan in order to use his shuttles as “a political smokescreen that conceals the bloodshed and grants (Assad) added time for an impossible military solution.”