Russia called upon Syria’s anti-government opposition to “follow the example” of President Bashar al-Assad by supporting a UN blueprint for ending a yearlong revolution which has claimed more than 9,000 lives.
Assad reportedly agreed to a peace process outlined by UN envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday. The six-point plan calls for a Syrian-led political process, a UN-supervised ceasefire and the free flow of humanitarian aid. It requires Syrian authorities to release arbitrarily-detained prisoners and allow journalists freedom of movement. In addition, the plan asks Damascus to respect the people’s right to demonstrate peacefully.
However, the U.S. and the Syrian opposition doubt Assad will live up to this commitment, especially considering Syrian security forces killed at least 20 people on Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as it continued shelling rebel strongholds.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said Annan’s plan realizes “the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians while respecting the country’s sovereignty and independence, with consolidated backing of the entire global community.”
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Syrian opposition groups have not commented on the proposal as of Wednesday.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), the most widely-recognized coalition of opposition parties, believes Assad is simply buying time to kill more people.
The opposition is so fragmented that it would be difficult to ascertain who has the authority to speak on behalf of the revolution, even if a majority agreed to accept the Annan deal.
A key sticking point for the opposition is that the UN plan does not call for Assad to step down, something the rebels’ Western-backers have been demanding Assad to do for months.
Moscow has been accused of protecting Assad because Syria buys billions of dollars worth of Russian arms and supplies every year. Russia and China, with their veto power, have stymied UN Security Council efforts to take action against Syria.
Russian leaders are reluctant to approve any UN resolutions, claiming that they refuse to get duped again, like they did when Western powers extended the Libya no-fly zone mandate into a full-fledged NATO offensive.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has been hesitant to get too involved because of opposition disunity and the law of unintended consequences. The Obama administration has said it was willing to provide “non-lethal” aid only and would not arm the rebels because of reports that some anti-regime elements have Al Qaeda ties.
I asked former Israeli ambassador and Brookings scholar Itamar Rabinovich about the validity of such assertions and he said there is “no real evidence of [an] al Qaeda presence. It cannot be ruled out but it can also be regime propaganda.”
Rabinvoich believed military intervention shouldn’t be necessary anyway, because there was so much more the US, Europe, Turkey and the Arab world could still do to exert effective pressure on the regime.
THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION:
Heavy fire-fights in Damascus signal turning point
McCain slams Obama for Syria diplomacy, urges military intervention
Syrian activists accuse media of sowing discord
UN Human Rights Council condemns Syria after 144 killed
U.S. finds itself aligned with Al-Qaeda in Syria
For more on Geopolitics go to www.michaelhughesassoc.com