International envoy Kofi Annan says that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to a new approach to peace after the collapse of an April ceasefire deal with rebels. Opposition leaders have said that they're skeptical Assad will ever end the brutal crackdown that they say has resulted in 17,000 deaths since a pro-democracy uprising began last year. Annan said he would discuss the new proposal — which would focus on calming the most violent areas first — with rebel groups soon. Annan met Tuesday with officials in Iran, a staunch ally of Assad's regime that Annan said could play a "positive role" in ending the bloodshed. White House spokesman Jay Carney questioned how anyone could argue "with a straight face" that Iran is a force for peace in Syria. If Syria's first ceasefire agreement failed, is there really any hope that a second one that relies on help from Tehran will fare any better?
This idea was doomed from the start: Annan's "latest misstep" is a doozy, says Reid Smith at The American Spectator. Iran has been propping up Assad and his cronies for years with political and military support — Tehran isn't part of the solution, it's part of the problem. The U.S. and the Syrian opposition know Iran won't help. Inviting Tehran to discuss "peace, security, and a post-Assad Syria" is, as one analyst put it, like "inviting vegetarians to a barbecue."
"Annan errs again"
It's worth a shot: Anyone who "loves peace should cherish Annan's perseverance," says China Daily in an editorial. Neither side respected the first ceasefire, and the violence only got worse. Still, "keeping the political dialogue rolling is the only hope of preventing more humanitarian disasters in the country." The "Friends of Syria" want to aid rebels and hit Assad with sanctions, which would only increase the tension. It's worth giving Annan's "olive branch" a try.
"Annan's initiative for Syria"
The way to stop war is to win it: Mediators like Annan rarely do much good, says Charles Crawford at Britain's The Telegraph. With Syrian atrocities displayed "live and uncensored" online, outsiders want to feel like they're doing something to "halt the bloodshed." But a mediator like Annan "incentivizes spoilers" — like Russia, the U.S., and Iran — instead of focusing on what Syrians want. Sadly, the best chance to end Syria's war "is for someone to win it."
"What is a 'mediator'? Just the useless tool of politicians determined to be seen to be doing something"