Both Russia and the West appear to be losing confidence in their respective “allies” in Syria. In what the Wall Street Journal described as “a rare sign of international unity over the standoff”, the United Nations Security Council has endorsed a plan to end the bloodshed in Syria:
The statement supports a six-point plan by U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan, which, crucially, calls for a cease-fire with government troops putting down their arms first, followed by the opposition. Previously, Russian officials had insisted on both sides ceasing hostilities simultaneously.The statement finesses this point by calling on Damascus to enact a cease-fire and withdraw its troops. As that happens, Mr. Annan would seek a similar commitment from the armed rebels, the statement says.The plan also calls for an immediate daily two-hour pause in hostilities to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, political dialogue between the two sides and the release of detained people, among other measures.
As we noted yesterday, Moscow is slowly backing away from its steadfast support of Assad. The Russians are increasingly aware of the Assad regime’s limited political competence, and the approval of this deal reinforces the sense that they doubt Assad can recover and restore an impasse.The plan also underscores the diminished enthusiasm among Western powers for the opposition forces fighting Assad. Underpinning fears of the rebels’ sectarian and even fanatical associations, Human Rights Watch recently presented an open letter citing “increasing evidence” of kidnappings, torture and executions committed by rebel forces. These concerns, combined with a limited appetite for a new and bigger humanitarian war, suggest that the West and the Arabs, much as they want Assad out, are not moving toward any kind of armed intervention.Even if Kofi Annan’s mediation is beginning to look more attractive, the Council’s support doesn’t increase its odds of success. Creative compromise and “live and let live” solutions are not exactly characteristic of Syrian political life. A negotiated deal that gets the Assads out but provides protections for minorities would be the best solution in Syria; the odds are very much against anything that nice coming to pass.