Sunday, April 01, 2012

Kofi Annan's Peace Plan

After over a year of fighting and over 9,000 reported deaths, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad agreed to Kofi Anna’s six point plan for peace on Tuesday the 27th of March. Here are the six points as reported by AP:

— Syria commits to work with Annan "in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people."

— Syria commits to stop fighting and immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas. As these actions are being taken, Syria should work with Annan to end all violence, under U.N. supervision. Annan will seek similar commitments from the opposition to stop all fighting.

— Syria accepts and implements a daily two hour "humanitarian pause" to deliver aid and evacuate the injured.

— Syria commits to intensify "the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons" and provide a list of all places where such people are being held.

— Syria commits to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists "and a nondiscriminatory visa policy for them."

— Syria commits to "respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed."

It became immediately clear that many in the international community did not believe Assad would deliver his promise. The British Foreign Secretary William Hague remained sceptical in a statement that read "We will continue to judge the Syrian regime by its practical actions, not by its often empty words". Perhaps predictably, Syrian opposition leader had similar doubts. "We are not sure if it's political maneuvering or a sincere act," said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. "We have no trust in the current regime. ... We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians." At today’s “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lambasted the Syrian regime for breaking a promise made early last year that no force would be used to contain the uprising. "None of the commitments made to us were kept, none of the promises were kept. Instead they used violence and oppression against the Syrian people," said Mr Erdogan. Needless to say, Turkey doesn’t have great faith in Annan’s peace plan either.

Already, the day after agreeing to the plan, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Syrian military has attacked towns from the southern province of Deraa to the Hama region and had even restarted shelling parts of Homs, where Assad had toured just one day earlier. "Military forces accompanied by dozens of armored vehicles stormed the town of Qalaat al-Madiq and nearby villages (in Hama)," the Observatory website reported. Hillary Clinton, warned that the Assad regime was adding to a "long list of broken promises" by launching new assaults on Syrian cities and towns.

If we examine the Syrian situation from a realist perspective, it is clear that it is not necessarily in President Assad’s interest to follow the peace plan. It is in his rational self interest to hold on to power for as long as possible, as he may well be killed if he ever hands over to a new government. In light of this, he will not carry out any part of the peace agreement which may threaten his hold on power, which is why we saw bombing restarted so soon after he had agreed to the plan. It seems unlikely that Assad will genuinely refrain from moving troops or deploying heavy weaponry so long as the Syrian government does not have control of certain rebel strongholds, particularly while Qatar and Saudi Arabia continue to advocate the arming of Syrian rebels. Assad knows full well that international military intervention is unlikely, (for a more detailed discussion of western intervention, please see previous blog post) and hardly seems bothered by his vilification in the Western press given that it dates back to well before the start of the Syrian uprising. So long as he continues to receive supplies from Iran, Russia and a few other key allies, he can safely ignore Western demands.

Besides, even if Assad were to try to thoroughly implement the peace plan, it is unclear whether he has the authority to do so. The Syrian army, unlike that of Egypt and Tunisia, is inextricably linked with the ruling Assad regime. This means the military may be reluctant to agree to anything which in their eyes weakens the position of the regime and therefore their position too. All that can be safely concluded is that this peace plan does not signal the end of the Syrian crisis.

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