Syria’s cover for murder

March 30, 2012

IT’S NOW BEEN 10 days since the U.N. Security Council endorsed a six-point plan for Syria created by former secretary general Kofi Annan, and the Obama administration’s ambassador described it as “the best way to put an end to the violence, facilitate much-needed humanitarian assistance and advance a Syrian-led political transition.” During that time, according to the London-based Strategic Research and Communication Centre, 624 more Syrians have been reported killed, including 58 women and 45 children.

The Annan plan calls for Syrian troops, tanks and artillery to withdraw from cities and towns. But according to multiple independent reports, those troops attacked and shelled the cities of Homs, Hama, Saraqeb, Daraa and Nawa this week. On Friday, three days after Mr. Annan announced that his plan had been accepted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, regime forces opened fire on protesters in the eastern town of Quriya, killing at least eight.

There have been no humanitarian deliveries to these embattled cities; no two-hour daily “humanitarian pause,” as Mr. Annan called for; no release of detainees, who number more than 200,000. If the death toll and extent of fighting remain uncertain — the numbers we cite are based on reports from opposition sources — that’s because the Annan plan’s provision for freedom of movement for journalists, like every other one of its six points, has been ignored by the regime.

These results were completely predictable at the time the Security Council adopted the plan with President Obama’s support. They have more than proved what we, among many others, pointed out at the time: that the Annan plan would merely provide cover for Mr. Assad to go on killing his own people. Yet the Obama administration continues to bet on the initiative, while rejecting other options — such as the creation of a safe zone in Syria. “We want to see, and support very much, the efforts of Kofi Annan and give him the time and diplomatic space that he needs to make this work,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday.

How much time? How many more dead? Mr. Annan’s spokesman in Geneva said Friday that “the deadline is now. We expect [Assad] to implement this plan immediately.” Those words will merely make Mr. Annan look more feckless. Mr. Assad will never implement the plan. Were he to do so, his regime would quickly collapse — and the dictator and his family long ago made clear that they have no intention of surrendering.

Obama administration officials describe the Annan plan as a tool that could facilitate the removal of Mr. Assad without triggering a civil war. But civil war — albeit a one-sided one — has been underway in Syria for months already. And the Annan plan does not provide for Mr. Assad to step down. On the contrary: The plan’s chief proponent, Russia, sees it as the means to keep the regime in power.

The Obama administration’s de facto choice to tolerate the survival of a regime that is Iran’s chief ally in the Middle East and the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah might have many motivations. But neither the will to prevent mass murder nor the pursuit of U.S. strategic interests could be among them.

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