Monday 2 July 2012

Syria: Extra year of Annan as global zookeeper

My first reaction on hearing Kofi Annan’s press briefing after Saturday’s meeting of the “Action Group on Syria” was that the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria has just given himself a one-year job as “Syria traffic warden.”
Writing in a somewhat similar sarcastic vein, George Semaan, a former editor-in-chief of pan-Arab al-Hayat, today suggests “Annan’s mission will be kept alive so long as there remains living souls in Syria.”
What was required of the Action Group meeting, he writes, “was to avoid pronouncing the mission dead. Hence the escape forward and a pseudo-agreement on a declamation that was ambiguous in its wording but clear in its spirit.
“The aim was to allow all participants – except the Syrians of course -- to interpret the declamation whimsically to match their avowed positions and respective links with the protagonists.”
Semaan says, “Annan’s mission is no longer tied to a timetable. His mandate won’t be ending in mid-month. The new plan gives him a year or more to go through the roadmap and the transition…
“The deliberate ambiguity in the declamation gives a leeway to all the sides. In particular, it gives Russia and the United States extra time. The important thing was to keep the political option as the only one on the table…
“The policies of ‘gaining time’ and ‘constructive ambiguity’ allowed the major players to reach an understanding in Geneva.
“But the Syrian sides’ positions can’t afford further ‘destructive clarity.’ Neither is President Assad’s ‘eclipse’ within reach nor can his adversaries sit down with his puppets. The revolution was meant to throw him out, so how can (insurrectionists) now risk uplifting him and his regime? It’s probably too late to envisage a solution like in Egypt or Yemen…”
In the opinion of Egyptian talk show host and columnist Imad Adeeb, “Short of an under-the-counter deal between all the delegations and the one from Russia, the outcome of the (Geneva) meeting is ‘inconsequential’ and ‘vague.’ Like water, it has no taste, color or odor but simply boosts killings and massacres…
“Washington has no preoccupation other than the presidential elections in November… the European Union is licking its wounds and laden with the debts of Greece and Spain… Beijing and Moscow are meantime playing the role of a skilled opportunist waiting for the right time to sacrifice the Assad regime in return for winning international guarantees that its replacement in Damascus would safeguard his interests.”
Fascinatingly, remarks Adeeb, the Geneva meeting’s closing statement “is equivocal. The Syrian opposition sees it as politically catastrophic and a license for prolonging killings and massacres. The UN perceives it as a positive step. Mrs. Clinton claims it clearly outlines the shape of the post-Assad regime. The Assad regime feels, without explicitly admitting, it won a minimum six-month extension to its political life.”
Asking, “Now what?” in his leader today, Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, writes: “The answer is simple – there is no political solution on the horizon…
“The Geneva conference is not the be-all and end-all of the crisis. It is not a loss for the Syrian revolution. It is proof that what the revolutionaries do on the ground is what makes the difference. Consequently, it is imperative to deem the Geneva conference a non-event and continue arming the Syrian opposition...”
Mulling over “an extra year for Annan,” brilliant Lebanese writer and columnist Samir Atallah writes:
“Annan’s (success) chances are still below 10 percent. They shot so high because the polar Bear decided to send Sergei Lavrov to Geneva with a ‘yes’ shackled by a thousand conditions. China in turn chose to doze off on her pillow.
“Who knows? Maybe 20,000 deaths would budge the Bear or stir the Dragon… Maybe I hastened as well to give vent to my feelings and criticize the man whose friends call ‘Kofi.’
“Problem is tragic events have left the world numb. It’s a world of Bears, Dragons and Elephants who do not want to upset the Lion (Arabic for Assad).”