Kofi Annan Never Really Had a Chance to Succeed

On the day six months ago when Kofi Annan’s appointment as UN/Arab League Special Envoy was leaked to the media I wrote that he was the right choice for a near impossible task.

He was the right choice because he is one of the few people in the world who has the standing place phone calls to the various players — in Moscow, Washington, and Tehran — and have his phone calls returned. His task was near impossible because his success or failure was directly contingent on the degree of support he received from Russia.

From the start, that support seemed unlikely. Moscow even voted against the General Assembly resolution that created the position of UN/Arab League special envoy.  Still, he plodded along finding and exploiting diplomatic openings when they existed. He cajoled the Security Council and the Syrian government to agree to a plan that if followed would lead to the peaceful political transition in Syria.

It was the last real chance to avoid a civil war. It failed.

The Syrian government refused to actually implement the provisions to which it had agreed. Assad saw no consequence for violating the terms of this agreement (such as moving heavy weapons away from cities) because it knew Russia would veto any Security Council measures that would punish the Syrian regime for non-compliance.

Russia was and still is the only diplomatic player that could have pressured Bashar al Assad into abiding by the terms of the political transition negotiated by Kofi Annan. It never did, so his mission failed. In retrospect, there was probably no one on the planet who could have convinced Russia otherwise.