Kofi Annan's quest for Syrian peace always seemed like "mission impossible." And now, exasperated by his lack of progress in resolving Syria's unrelenting civil war, Annan has resigned as the special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League. Annan did not go quietly, blasting the international community for failing to unite against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels he's battling. (Russia and China have opposed U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have threatened sanctions if Syria did not abide by Annan's peace plan.) U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says he's trying to replace Annan, but it's unlikely Ban will find anyone with the same international stature as the Nobel laureate. Does diplomacy have a chance in Syria?
Get ready for a protracted civil war: Annan's resignation is a "landmark moment" that "marks the end of diplomacy in Syria," says Britain's The Guardian in an editorial. Russia and China are standing by Assad, while the U.S. and its allies have failed to convince the opposition "to accept any element of the existing regime as part of the transitional process." The standoff means the two sides will duke it out on the battlefield, with no guarantee that one is strong enough to defeat the other. "Everyone is digging in for a longer and bloodier war."
"Syria: End of diplomacy"
Annan's resignation shows diplomacy's flaws: Annan's failure perpetuates the belief that diplomatic efforts are "marked by impotence and inability to create breakthroughs in difficult conflicts," says Adam Chandler at Tablet. Annan's tenure as U.N. secretary general was marked by similar failings, from the genocide in Rwanda to peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia. In fact, Annan's diplomacy gave the Syrian regime "a few shreds of international legitimacy and dangerous cover that Assad used to continue his brutal crackdown on the opposition (as well as killing civilians and torturing children)."
"Kofi Annan's unnecessary resignation"
But U.S. diplomacy may still play a role in Syria: "With the Kofi Annan diplomatic charade played out, pressures will mount for the United States to head off a wider civil war in Syria," says Leslie H. Gelb at The Daily Beast. Of course, military intervention would only suck the U.S. into an intractable conflict. Instead, the U.S. should use its diplomatic clout to convince Syria's neighbors — Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — to increase their involvement and smooth the way for a new government. The Syrian civil war is "the perfect case where the United States can lead only from behind, where it can help others to understand what they should and should not do, and fill in the blanks."
"Kofi Annan's exit: Why Obama should lead from behind in Syria"
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