Perhaps, this is an exaggerated view, but in a more balanced approach, Annan can be considered as representing international parties that seek a middle solution to the Syrian crisis and some of them believe that convergence between Washington’s and Moscow’s views on the crisis will put an end to it.
Annan started out on his mission by asserting that he is seeking a political solution to the crisis. This means that he does not seek to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power now that his army has liberated Homs from the clutches of opposition forces and is currently focused on the province and city of Idlib.
The Syrian opposition was opposed to Annan’s mission and finding a political solution to the crisis from the very onset of his mission and totally rejected negotiations with Assad. The opposition, however, is not powerful enough to make decisions of its own and impose those decisions on regional and international players. Opposition groups have never been able to become united and only some of them have entered into negotiations with Annan in Damascus.
Overreliance of the Syrian opposition, especially its military wing, on foreign governments has made them subject to the influence of those governments’ interest, thus, stripping them of the capacity to make independent decisions. Foreign governments, on the other hand, only think about protecting their own interests in regional and international equations and when they reach an agreement, Assad’s opposition will be marginalized.
Pressures will continue from all sides until a middle solution is found. Just in the same way that the Syrian army is trying to drain all the strength of the armed opposition elements before engaging in negotiations, the opposition will likewise try to deal the most possible blows to the Syrian army.
Regional and international sides supporting the opposition are still increasing their threats. Besides providing weapons to the opposition, there have been various reports in Western media that the US has a plan to wage a war against Syria and make a safe zone in one of Syria’s borders with Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon or that they want to put pressure on Damascus and its regional and international supporters through the UN Security Council.
In his meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Kofi Annan discussed an urgent need of ending the clashes, allowing aid to the damaged areas, and starting internal talks. The Russian foreign minister also reached an agreement on the same issues with his Arab counterparts in Cairo. One of the main results of the deal was the exclusion of transferring power from Assad to his deputy that was previously highlighted in the Arab League’s plan.
There are also widespread rumors, including as Russia, Iran, and Turkey having agreed on Assad’s removal, wanting to see him leave power not immediately but after a gradual return of calm to Syria. But Tehran and Moscow’s policies are against these rumors.
It seems that Assad accepted to meet with Annan as the UN’s envoy not the Arab League’s envoy with more assurance. Damascus also accepted UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, who had earlier taken a harsh stance against the Syrian government.
The Arab League failed to use a historical opportunity to resolve the crisis in Syria and it reached the final stage without taking the preliminary steps by aiming to change the Syrian president and considering an armed interference as the most urgent measure in the country.
However, these demands were not welcome both inside and outside Syria. No Western government favors a military intervention in Syria. Arming the opposition and turning Syria into a second Afghanistan by creating a new base for al-Qaeda is to no one’s benefit. Despite its initial refusal, the Arab League is now forced to accept the presence of armed opposition as one of the reasons behind the ongoing crisis.
The Arab League is thus forced to negotiate with Moscow and Beijing, both of whom oppose any regime change in Syria and foreign intervention there. The recent remarks of the Saudi foreign minister, after talks with his German counterpart in Riyadh, show his disappoint and anger over the failure of the Arab League bid to lead on the Syrian issue.
Who can oppose Kofi Annan’s mission? Damascus cleverly speaks of his very positive talks with Bashar al-Assad. The Arab League and the armed Syrian opposition cannot question this mission, as they will be held responsible for its failure. One cannot sum up all three of Annan’s meetings with al-Assad in simply staging a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and diplomatic talks. A prominent diplomat like Annan will never reveal all his cards, but establishing a ceasefire is a difficult measure. To achieve a truce, talks will have to be held so that necessary guarantees are established. This requires the presence of observers who carry the confidence of both the Syrian regime and its opposition. The Arab League has once summoned back its observers.
Forming a new group of observers in the United Nations requires a resolution and agreement between the permanent members of the Security Council. Any agreement between them will pave the ground for further agreements and the Syrian crisis will thus be confined to these five countries. Maybe it’s this very long and winding path that keeps the optimistic Annan from achieving a ceasefire.