It's the only Syria plan they have
April 20th, 2012
12:14 AM ET

It's the only Syria plan they have

By Elise Labott, from Paris

None of baker's dozen of foreign ministers huddling Thursday at the mini-Friends of Syria meeting actually said they believed that the six-point plan proposed by special envoy Kofi Annan would stop the violence in Syria and pave the way for President Bashar al-Assad's ouster.

Even as the ministers stressed the urgent need to send monitors into Syria to observe the cease-fire, they were pointing to the declaration by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Syrian regime has violated nearly every aspect of Annan's plan, including obstructing work on the advance monitoring team on the ground and turning a blind eye to the growing humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Despite the fact the U.N. says the shelling of Homs and other Syrian towns are as bad as ever, despite the fact that the regime continued to fire on peaceful protestors while the U.N. observers were presented, the ministers in Paris were loath to declare the Annan plan dead.

Why? Because it's their only hope. The hope that the cease-fire will hold long enough that a full U.N. monitoring force can move into the country. The hope that al-Assad will break with his tradition and stop killing his opponents. The hope that he will suddenly move toward a "political transition" and step aside.

"It looks bad, but we can't give up," one Arab foreign minister told me. "It's the only game in town."

With the world clinging to the Annan plan, there were no decisions to be made in Paris, no "next steps" to be taken. There is, however, a French election beginning next week, where President Nicholas Sarkozy is by no means assured re-election and need a chance to exercise a little leadership on national security. As one diplomat at the meeting said about its raison d'etre: "French politics. C'est tout.

In recent days the United States has ramped up its rhetoric to put pressure on the regime. On Wednesday at NATO, Secretary of State Secretary Clinton said the U.N.-brokered cease-fire remained al-Assad's "last chance before additional measures are considered." Thursday in Paris, she upped the ante by calling for the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution imposing an arms embargo and other tough sanctions against the regime if Assad doesn't comply with the Annan plan. Clinton didn't say so explicitly but by invoking the dreaded "Chapter 7" of the U.N. charter, the implication is that the international community could use military action to enforce the resolution.

Clinton also hinted at a possible role for NATO after Syrian forces shelled across the border last week into Turkey, a NATO ally where thousands of Syrian refugees and rebel forces have taken refuge. Turkey, she said, raised the option of possible involvement. According to the NATO charter, an attack on one member is considered to be an attack on them all.

At least for now, these are empty threats. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the alliance would not intervene without the kind of an international mandate the only the United Nations could provide. Russia and China, which are generally allergic to military intervention, have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that merely condemned the actions of the regime. While Moscow and Beijing have sharpened their criticism of the regime, they are highly unlikely to endorse any action at the U.N. that paves the way for the possible use of force.

Al-Assad knows this. So does Clinton. Although official U.S. policy, as stated by President Barack Obama and Clinton on down, is that al-Assad should step down, the administration's actions to date reflect a certain willingness to leave him in power.

The United States has not hidden its frustration at the Syrian opposition's lack of organization and vision, nor have officials been silent about concerns about the threat of a looming civil war among Syria's various ethnic groups. Even Clinton herself has said that Syrian rebel forces, undertrained and poorly armed, are no match for al-Assad's massive army. Privately, her aides acknowledge that without a military coup or outside strike, he is likely to remain in power for some time.

A new Security Council resolution could help strengthen the fledgling opposition. Although the arming of rebel forces by Gulf states is going slowly, the U.S. is expanding its communications, logistics, and other support for the Syrian opposition. Clinton said the U.S. could work with Turkey to establish an "an assistance hub" to locate Syrian activists and help them coordinate the collection and distribution of assistance to opposition groups inside Syria.

Until the opposition grows stronger and with precious little appetite for military action, there is no Plan B. Which takes us back to the Annan plan.

It is unclear whether this new sharper tone will force a change in the regime's behavior. If it doesn't, it remains to be seen how long the international community will cling to the farce that the Annan plan will work as an excuse for inaction before they say what they already privately admit, that it is a failure.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Khagaraj Sommu

    Elise Labott should have considered to what extent the Libyan experience has trapped the NATO and the Arab League countries in the Syrian mess.Did they misjudge Russia and China ? Did they over estimate the strength of the rebels and underestimated the loyalty of Assad's military? A postmortem of the Syrian misadventure is overdue.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  2. Robert

    We should not get involved, militarily, in Syria. France, Egypt, Jordon, Israel, Saudi Arabia are training and funding insurgents, who are slipping into Syria and mounting offensives. I offer this article I wrote for free to CNN readers. Many believe they will, eventually, topple the Syrian government. Robert at Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) News
    http://www.osintdaily.blogspot.com/2012/02/outside-opposition-fighters-may-topple.html

    April 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  3. DAVID KAPLAN

    Obama has yet even consider plan "A". I am afraid we are "hands off" as an inducemnet to the Iranians to negotiate.. This is beyond stupid as they siimply pocket our concessions, give not one iota as they march toward a nuclear bomb and then demand more concessions. The game stops when they, in short order, will have the bomb and become impervious to attack. Then we will find out what the word aggression really means as they know we will think once, twice and yet again before attacking them after they hit us with a terrorist attack. Not to mention setting off a an unstoppable world wide chain on nuclear proliferation.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • Shellb312

      So right!

      April 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
    • ibn Franko

      Stop crying just 'cause he won't kiss AIPAC's ass.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  4. Tony

    President Obama has been watching syrian children been killed and tortured by barbaric Assad regime supported by China and Russia and not even doing any thing to stop it , as well as he is claimming that he is a good christian is appaulling. Obama the president of USA is not doing any thing on this issues is of mind boggilling and of a big mistery.
    This mean killing syrians is a goal by itself like the holocast in Europe against the jews.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • ibn Franko

      So what? Where was Reagan back in '82 when dick-heads daddy was slaughtering his people in Hama?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • byebye

      Do you want us to remain in Afghanistan and Iraq, have the drug cartel threatening us to the South, and yet, at the very same time, go on a suicide mission in Syria? Do want us to invade South Sudan and Sudan also? Do you want us to attack North Korea? Do you own stock in defense contractors?

      April 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • jim

      I know this is difficult for the cerebrally challenged to grasp, but IT IS NOT OUR PROBLEM!!!!!!

      April 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Ken

      You're saying Romney would go in with the guns a blazing? I thought the American people don't want any more wars? You Republicans are scary....WW3 on Romney's agenda.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
      • Tortfeasor

        No, Romney's a businessman. He has no interest but getting us on track for the roaring 20's round 2!

        April 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
      • Fucky Thompson

        Bring back the flappers! Them bitches is LOOSE!

        April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Shellb312

      Obama is our weakest leader yet... Ashame... He sits idly by and does nothing, just endorsing the enemy.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Agustin

      Would love to know if you may be coming to Georgia for a book siginng? I would love to meet you. Snow Angels was an amazing book, I am currently reading Last Night At The Lobster and I am planning on buying Songs for the Missing today.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:05 am | Reply
  5. Tony

    To Assad thugs that are still expressing their opinions on this report, you have lost ....and if you have a little conscience you will ask your GOD Bashar Al Assad and his mafia family to stop the killing of innocent people every day. With more than 15 000 dead and more than 150 000 in custody mostly feared dead you realy lost any future hope for peace in the region. The whole world is still watching those images of dead children, women and young syrian being almost on any international TV news. You have lost the respect of the world. Assad with his tall neck he is a candidate to be hanged for his crime against humanity in the center of Damascus.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Bezboz

      If you believe what you wrote to be true, you owe it to yourself to read the Arab League's report on Syria. It will give you a clearer picture. Both sides are lying, decieving and killing. Why should the Syrians risk a new regime full of problems and loaded with Islamists when they have figured out how to work the current one?

      And add to that that the youth in Syria actually like him as they see the country moved in positive direction under him.

      April 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • Choad

      A mere drop in the ol' proverbial bucket compared to how many civilians died thanks to Dubya and his henchmen, Cheney and Rummy. Last I checked, they're still breathing.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  6. Nicky Chitsa

    Why the Arab league not given the mandate to deal with this nasty situation in Syria,before a full intervention by Nato?

    April 20, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • JayBee

      The Arab league is about as useful as a vagina with a dick growing out of it.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
      • ibn Franko

        As is NATO.

        April 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. charles voo

    there is no way assad will surrender to usa and it europ allie, assad will fight until dead also russia and china will not let
    usa or it allie swallow assad, i think you know that, maybe world war 3will begin there

    April 20, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
    • JayBee

      That would straight up suck...................for Russia.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
      • JayBee

        For everyone

        April 20, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Andrey

      Oh! You've got me scared there....
      Just thinking world being so stupid to have a war over that crap: you have quite a vivid imagination! I do feel sorry for you: your own life must be hell of all that worry and fear! Take it easy if you can!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
    • Et

      Charles voo u think u could rely on China and Russian? They (China and Russian) are two barking dogs with fangs to bite. They only are concerned about their investments, not about supporting a Syrian government war. When it is time, you will see Russian and China dissolve quickly like a block of ice under a midday sun. Hope on them until the Al assad fires a bullet into your skull.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  8. Ken

    The US, has not offered one peacefull solution for Syria as of yet. Arming and fianancing the opposition will not resolve the problem. The US "accomplishment" in the area speak for itself.... Iraq, is a mess, and people dying everyday, Lybia is not far behind, and soon will be controlled by Alqaida. My recommendation for Mrs. Clinton is to focus on Mexico, if she really wants to save life. 45,000 people got killed in the drug war And it is your neighbor .

    April 20, 2012 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • SayWhat?

      The US does not need to offer crap to these folks. Let the Arab League take care of their own.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • Mike D

      The sad thing is United States could easily end the violence in mexico by simply ending the drug war. You'd think that they would have learned this.

      Since Nam, every time they've declared war on something it's always resulted in failure.

      Only until they learn that war is not they way, the failures will continue.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • Oscar the Grouch

        Well, technically, the U.S. Congress hasn't "declared war" since WWII

        April 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Frank

      The US hasn't offered any solution to anything that doesn't involve violent military action for many years now. "If it moves, shoot it" seems to be the only thing this hubris-stricken country knows. :((

      April 20, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  9. Egedovo Mariere

    Reblogged this on Africa News Corporation.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:41 am | Reply
  10. Albuquerque, Turkey

    I think its funny how the U.S empire works. Originally the Roman Empire worked by going somewhere extracting resources and thats how they grew from Spain to Syria.
    The American empire works by simply going to war. Thats the new future of war you go to war and tax your citizens to death. Funny how we still support this stuff in the guise of patriotism. Your not supposed to be so patriotic that you can't tell reality from fantasy.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:16 am | Reply
    • SayWhat?

      I think you're funny.....

      April 20, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • trooollll

      i havent heard anyone die because of too much taxation maybe your mom just died because shes such a hooker

      April 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  11. putin fence removal

    putin built the fence and according to how obama is playing this it will be up to putin as to when it comes down.

    the report from the UN states there is about 9,000. dead in syria, well we will learn the truth after this is over , and as of now with the powerful use of shelling the death toll is acually twice the number reported and possibility much more.

    the restrained reporting on the numbers is to lower the out cry of the region and to remove pressure from obama
    to act. I would say at this point that the freedom fighters are no longer a syrian majority but rather a rag tag force from many nations at this point.
    so the UN and all the groups can talk about an answer to assad , but until putin lowers the fence nothing much is going to happen other than many more will be killed.
    if assad does fall that will not result in the fall of the standing gov. assad maybe turned over as a bribe but that will be all that is done.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:22 am | Reply
    • JayBee

      agreed. well said.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      Putin is in power in Russia like for the last 12 years. And will stay in power for at least the next 6. So suck it up and live with it!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  12. thesteward

    Let the people of Syria sort out their own problems.

    It's the JewMedia that is fanning these flames.

    I won't bleed, or pay to beat up israels enemies.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
    • JayBee

      Ohhhhhhh I see, i cant believe i was so blind to it before. All this time i thought that the Syrian military were pulling the triggers. But thanks to you I now know that its Jewish Journalists and Zionist media CEO's that are pulling the triggers, directing the artillery, commanding the tanks that are firing into suburban neigborhoods.
      Thank you so much for showing me the truth.

      The only thing thats fanning the flames is the next barage of morter fire and automatic weapon volleys. dick.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Etah

      Thesteward, I'm so sure you see enemies not the situation on ground. This is not about Israeli enemies, but about a government killing its own citizens it supposed to protect. You argue like this because you are not in Syria.

      April 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
      • Osiris

        If a jew finds an object lost by a goy it does not have to be returned -baba mezia 24a

        If a jew murders a goy there will be no death penalty-sanhedrin 57a

        April 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm |

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