After more than a year of brutal bloodshed, which has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people in Syria, an uneasy truce took hold on Thursday. Scattered fighting reportedly persists, but by and large, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad appears to have halted its devastating attacks on rebel strongholds. The ceasefire is part of a six-point peace plan crafted by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations. However, skeptics warn that Syria hasn't agreed to all of Annan's provisions, and maintains the right to "respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups," which may offer a massive loophole through which the government can justify further attacks on its citizens. Is Annan kidding himself that Assad actually wants peace?
Assad will never relent: "Annan set about his work admirably," says Jonathan Schanzer at The New Republic, but his naive "plan creates more problems than it solves." By failing to demand Assad's ouster, and merely calling for a "dialogue between Assad and the opposition," the U.N. envoy "is tipping the scales in favor of a murderous regime." It's no wonder Assad was eager to embrace the plan, since a pointless diplomatic dance will just buy him time before he resumes his bloody crackdown on the rebels.
"It's time to add Syria to Kofi Annan's long list of failures"
And the West will have to intervene: Things are not really getting better in Syria, says Simon Tisdall at Britain's The Guardian, And Assad "is not just dissing Kofi Annan's peace plan" — he is "giving everybody the finger." Despite what you may have heard, the fighting has now reached the borders of Turkey and Lebanon, evidence that instability across the Middle East is "inexorably spreading." It's time for the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to intervene, since "all other options have been tried and failed."
"Obama and NATO should act before the Syria crisis spreads further"
But Annan's plan could succeed by failing: Annan's strategy is not only about Assad, says Neil MacFarquhar at The New York Times. It's partly directed at Russia, Syria's longtime ally. Russia vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions calling for tougher sanctions on Syria and Assad's ouster. But Moscow supports Annan's plan, and if Assad rips the deal to shreds, it will be tougher for Russia to defy the Security Council in the future. In fact, the failure of Annan's plan might finally convince Russia to take action against Syria.
"All eyes on Russia as Syria ceasefire deadline passes"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Chuck Hagel was a huge mistake
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- What would it take for humans to build a settlement on Mars?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 10 things you need to know today: November 24, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- Want to eliminate the scourge of frat culture? Lower the drinking age.
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
Subscribe to the Week