United Nations observers in Syria suspended their patrols over the weekend in the face of escalating violence. As they attempted to document massacres, the 300 unarmed ceasefire monitors met roadblocks and were shot at, and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., recently likened them to "sitting ducks in a shooting gallery." Syrian opposition leaders, some of whom are calling for armed peacekeepers, slammed the U.N. for pulling back, saying it was "unjustifiable and unacceptable" to leave civilians at the mercy of President Bashar al-Assad's army. Is the U.N. turning its back on the opposition?
Arguably, yes: The collapse of the observer mission exposes the U.N. "to charges of abandoning civilians to slaughter," say Liz Sly and Colum Lynch in The Washington Post. Now, the pressure's on the U.S., Russia, and other key powers to settle their differences and "forge a new diplomatic strategy to contain a crisis." But that will take time. Meanwhile, Syrians are apparently in for what a former U.N. official called "a long and bloody summer."
"U.N. suspends mission in Syria because of increasing violence"
But the U.N. mission was ineffective: "Little has been lost by the suspension" of the U.N. monitoring mission, says Dan Murphy in The Christian Science Monitor. In a nation of 30 million people, the "paltry" 300-member observer force "has struggled to bear witness to the worst of the fighting, let alone stop it." To redeem the international community, the U.N. will have to get more aggressive, a difficult task as long as Russia remains determined to protect Assad.
"Why the U.N. suspended ineffective observer mission in Syria"
Actually, this was a necessary step: Suspending the U.N. mission may actually encourage Assad to stop slaughtering civilians, says Patrick J. McDonnell in the Los Angeles Times. Kofi Annan's ceasefire allowed Assad and his backers "to argue, however unconvincingly, that Damascus is amenable to a peaceful, internationally brokered truce and transition to a more representative government." Now that the deal is "on the verge of collapse," Assad loses "international cover." The U.N. is sending him a "blunt message": Stop your crackdown, or risk "all-out civil war."
"U.N. observer team suspends work in Syria"
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