Ian Black writes: Kofi Annan has just three weeks left to serve out his time as the UN envoy for Syria. Understandably disappointed at the failure of what others had called “mission impossible” – a description he came to agree with – he lamented two aspects of the crisis: its increasing militarisation and the disunity of the security council. Earlier, in a Guardian interview, he had deplored the “destructive competition” of the five big powers who still sit round the world’s “top table” on New York’s East river.
It bears repeating that Syria is first of all a human tragedy, with thousands of dead and many thousands more lives ruined in the bloodiest chapter of what in happier or more naive times and circumstances was called the Arab spring. Feelings are running high. For some, however, principled objections to western policy clearly weigh more heavily than the suffering of the Syrian people at the hands of a government that used deadly force from the moment protests erupted in Deraa in March 2011.
It is a moot point whether diplomacy could ever have succeeded in ending the carnage. Syria, it has been wisely observed, is where the Arab uprisings met the cold war and the Sunni-Shia divide. Regional and international rivalries worsened by the Libyan crisis last year, sectarian incitement and a fight to the death for regime survival all make for a toxic mixture.
For most elements of Syria’s fractured opposition, Assad’s acceptance of Annan’s six-point peace plan was only ever a way to buy time, exploit divisions and carry on killing. The regime barely observed a ceasefire that notionally began in April or implemented any of the plan’s other five conditions. The armed opposition accepted it but carried on fighting even as mass peaceful protests continued.
Yet the cartoon book claim that “the west” (conspiring with compliant Arabs) has malevolently blocked an agreement that a principled Russia tirelessly supported does not stand up to scrutiny. (Nor does the closely related and deeply patronising notion that Syrians who are prepared to risk all for freedoms others take for granted are mere puppets in the hands of others.) [Continue reading…]
To focus on Black’s last point, it’s worth underlining the blatant hypocrisy of those who acknowledge the legitimacy of armed resistance when the injustice being challenged is Zionism, yet view armed resistance to the Assad regime as inherently suspect.
Syrians supposedly have the right to peacefully demonstrate yet anyone who picks up a gun suddenly becomes an instrument of imperialism. Indeed, few with this twisted perspective will even acknowledge that it is possible for an individual to make the transition from marching to fighting without having been corrupted in the process. Moreover, protesters and fighters are very often referred to as though they are mutually exclusive categories. Most perplexing is when these anti-resistance voices are raised in the United States.
It makes me wonder: would the proponents of this anti-revolutionary view, had they been alive at that time, have raised similar objections to the American Revolution — that it lost its legitimacy when the revolutionaries took up arms and accepted support from imperial powers?