Time to drop the Annan plan
July 19th, 2012
08:24 PM ET

Time to drop the Annan plan

By Richard Haass, CFR

Richard N. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are solely those of the author. This edition of First Take originally appeared here.

The Russian and Chinese veto of the U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would have declared the situation in Syria a threat to international peace and security, extended the U.N. diplomatic mission headed by Kofi Annan, and set the stage for new sanctions and possibly U.N.-authorized military action was hardly surprising. More important, it isn’t all that significant.

What explains the veto is not just Russia’s and China’s opposition to the use of military force to unseat the Assad regime, something which would have required another Security Council resolution in any event. They also are uneasy with anything that legitimizes international involvement in what they see as the domestic affairs of countries. Both the Russian and Chinese governments fear precedents that could be turned against them. By contrast, the United States and many others believe outsiders have a responsibility to act if governments mistreat their citizens. If nothing else, it’s time for a moratorium on the use of the phrase “international community” in situations such as this one where no such consensus exists.

More from CFR: Why Russia won't yield on Syria

The vote in New York won’t materially affect the situation on the ground. The Syrian government has lost control over important parts of the country, and the opposition has demonstrated an ability to strike successfully in Damascus. Fighting is likely to intensify; the opposition will want to build on the momentum of this week’s successful bombing; the Assad regime will want to demonstrate it is still able to defeat any and all challenges.

The failure to renew the diplomatic mission being led by Kofi Annan (with its associated group of observers) is no great loss. The peace plan under which Annan was operating had – and has – no chance of being accepted. It would be far better to terminate this effort and establish a new one with the mission of bringing about the exit of the current Syrian regime.

Last, the United States and other like-minded governments shouldn’t equate the United Nations with multilateralism, nor should they see the U.N. as having a monopoly on legitimacy. To the contrary, they should form a coalition of the willing and able, composed of NATO countries, selected Arab governments, and others that are committed to increasing sanctions against not just Syria but those countries supporting it, building up the strength and political appeal of the Syrian opposition, pressing for war crimes indictments against Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle, planning for strikes against Syrian chemical munitions, and preparing for a post-Assad Syria.

As hard as it is proving to bring about the regime’s downfall, it will likely prove far harder to manage a transition to something stable and democratic.

More from CFR: Who owns the land in South Africa?

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. JAL

    We must always have faith in diplomacy, even if it fails.

    July 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Lyndsie Graham

      I agree, JAL. We need to give diplomacy a chance.

      July 20, 2012 at 9:16 am | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Still trying to rehabilitate Saeed/Jal/Hinduism...
      We know that Saeed is unable to put a coherent sentence together.
      Get out of here.

      July 20, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • mhill68123

      "We must always have faith in diplomacy, even if it fails"
      Famous words of Neville Chamberlain after an unsuccesful meeting with Hitler.
      Soon after, Hitler conquered all of Europe and nearly destroyed Britain.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  2. John

    There are still things USA does better than anyone else in the world.
    1. We make better weapons to kill people.
    2, we make movies where alot of people get killed.
    3. We make video games where alot of people get killed.
    4. we kill people either in war or homicide.
    Therefore it is important that we promote war whenever possible so America's stregnths will remain relevent in the present and in the future. So I'm glad we have people like Richard Haas always looking for new places where we may drop a few more bombs.

    July 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • John

      I kill myself.

      July 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Reply
    • JAL

      John, you need help. Nobody expresses this much anger and just gets better by themselves. You need to talk to a professional.

      July 20, 2012 at 8:28 am | Reply
      • Why does he need help?

        That's how every GOP member thinks.

        July 20, 2012 at 9:42 am |
      • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

        Good acting skills girls.
        Did you two call each other to plan this dissertation?
        You two are laughable–at best.

        July 20, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Glenn

      John, you truly are an a*s.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  3. Kazim

    Why did USA not think of passing a resolution when Bahrain was killing its own people. Was that a policy matter which involved a friend , Saudi Arabia ?

    July 20, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
    • lamar

      You forgot Iran,Russia and china oppression !

      July 20, 2012 at 1:52 am | Reply
      • chris

        dont forget america's either! and you seem to have forgotten that it is AMERICA who is fanning the flames of these JIHADIST TERRORIST,and ARMING them. what you dont hear from you hypocrites here and in washington D.C is a call for the al-qaeda rebels to lay down their weapons!

        July 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Lyndsie Graham

      I agree, Kazim. Our foreign policy does carry a double standard and that stinks to High Heaven!!!

      July 20, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
      • Lyndsie Graham

        I am a leech.
        I will leech on to anyone and try my darnest to change things so that allah is proud of me.

        July 20, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed the real loser will be Russia, that has lost its face on the international stagei. The Syrian rebels will prevail, that's no doubt about it. It's a pity that Kofi Annan's plan was too rigid and had no plan B. He is a highly respectable and skilled diplomat. The UN knew that he is the only person, who will be let in by Damascus, Beijing, Tehran and Moscow.

    July 20, 2012 at 3:22 am | Reply
    • Marine5484

      I'm afraid that you're right, j.von hettlingen. The idea of another Western triumph in the Middle East is quite nauseating!

      July 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
      • Lyndsie Graham

        You can take a pig to water but you cannot make it drink to save its life.

        July 20, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • xat

      I disagree. Kofi Annan isn't a worthy person here. He has failed several times before. When Taliban had several times warned they would bomb the Bamiyan statues, he was clueless, and made a single visit with no plan or anything – no followup. He is worthless.

      July 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
      • chris

        he is only worthless because he pursuing an AMERICAN AGENDA! not ONCE have I heard this stooge Annan declare that ALL PARTIES involved should lay down their weapons. all he does is tout america's regime change agenda,regardless of what atrocities that the al-qaeda rebels commit.

        al-qaeda rebels use suicide bombers to kill civillians as they did last month,Annan says "we hold the SYRIAN REGIME responsible for these crimes against the citizens of syria"

        al-qaeda rebels again use jihadist suicide bombers to kill military leaders in syria as they did two days ago,Annan says "we hold the SYRIAN REGIME responsible for these acts of aggression and call for assad to agree to a transitional govt"

        and to make matters worse,it is AMERICA and the al-qaeda rebels who keep deciding against the annan plan. the russians and the chinese both accepted it as did assad. america only wants regime change to detsabilize the country. america,nor its hypocrite citizens cares about the people of syria. america will tell any lie to suit its cause!

        July 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
      • John123

        @chris- are you seriously suggesting both that the American government is colluding with the rebels, and that the rebels are linked with al Qaeda? Do you work for Assad?

        July 23, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • mhill68123

      Annan and his son were criminals while working at the UN.
      What could you possibly hope from such a disgusting POS

      July 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  5. Matt

    It was a mistake to for the issue that the Russians must take Assad into exile, take him or leave things as they are. So things are left as they are. The fact is he is not going to leave peacefully, he will end up being strung up. The argument about Russian and Chinese domestic concerns. I don't get it because both have the veto which would stop any intervention due to their domestic actions. All Syria shows is that regardless of the veto, a population can liberate themselves without international assistance. That is worse.

    The point is all sides are using the situational reports on the ground for their stance at the UN. The FSA has been fighting in Damascus before, the talk about turning point, the regime and Russia this is the final battle, it is psychological. Because when it get too hot the FSA will di di mao, a tactical retreat, the regime will declare victory and Russia use that at the UN and on the opposition. But the FSA will be back in Damascus again for a third time. It will take about four attempts to take the capital, the fourth time they will secure it under their control. That will be next year, probably late in the year.

    The FSA operate on situational reports as a guerrilla army, there position is not a fixed campaign, while the momentum goes their way they keep the offensive going, if things on the ground work in their favor they will continue the battle in Damascus, if not they will conduct a tactical withdrawal. As long as the fighting goes you can't say did they intend to stay one day, two or five, that is the situational report, that decides.

    July 20, 2012 at 4:06 am | Reply
    • chris

      matt,stop your lying! these are NOT syrian citizens! these are FOREIGN JIHADIST who are coming in from Turkey! our govt is knowingly siding with their new muslim infantry men the al-qaeda terrorist. there is NO WAY HUMANLY POSSIBLE that these jihadist can rise from the dead in the towns that assad has turned to glass.

      hopefully the syrian will unleash their air force on these terrorist and blow them to bits to save their country!

      July 20, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
      • Dubhly

        kinda looney sounding there chris...first off Turkey is a secular state and not host to al queda. They are a member of NATO, and the UN in good standing, so throwing garbage ideas around like this only make you sound as poor as the idea. On the other side i suppose you could be a troll, or an Assad sympothizer who is trying to throw up enough smoke no one knows whats going on...In any event your showing up is lame and not working towards any of the above goals, cept trolling i guess

        July 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Time To Drop The GOP Plan

    The GOP Plan: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-Christian, Unemployed, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Employed, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
  7. pwc

    annan is irelavent

    July 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • pwc

      My imam told me to keep repeating the same lie, but I have no idea how to spelt it.
      Can you help a poor muslim trying to create shyatt spelt things proper?

      July 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • Patrick-2

        I see that Phunnie boy's at it again. It appears to be your turn now, pwc!

        July 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  8. Saeed

    As good muslims, we decided that we would all be Saeed today.
    Poor boy is the result of a daughter being abused by her father.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  9. Saeed

    mind you it does not matter what we do, as good muslims, the real Saeed will continue to express his opinions and everyone will recognize the real moron for what he is.

    July 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  10. abe

    CNN cannot independently confirm reports of violence because the government restricts access by foreign journalists.
    this is more CNN PROPAGANDA.
    CNN is now the Mouthpiece of TERROR in Syria. These are the same murderers that were killing US marines in Iraq, but then they were "insurgents and terrorists"
    CNN reporters are PAID agents of Saudi and Emirates
    We are tired of the CNN & Al Jazzera PROPAGANDA

    July 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  11. You are not Saeed no matter how hard you try

    As above.

    July 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  12. abe

    It's all a secret so dont tell anyone.

    July 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  13. Dan

    No chance the "rebels" will succeed in their coup. And let's not spin things here, all this really is is a coup, with "rebels" being funded by certain western governments. The thing is, Russia has much more to lose than the US, Brittain, Saudi and Israel have to gain. Namely, a long-term major purchaser of military grade arms, and a naval port. That fact alone means Syria will not fall. Russia will expend everything she needs to. Sorry, but the score he will be CIA: 0, Putin: 1. All predicted by perfect logic.

    July 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Reply
    • Lyndsie Graham

      Let's all hope that you're right, Dan. I would love to see the West fail for one time. Unfortunately so far, it has been only too successful!!!

      July 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • mike

      Actually the rebels salaries and weapons are provided by countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Its payback to Iran after Iraq tilted towards Iran. The Qatari and Saudi governments do not get along with Iran's and they are looking for a little payback.
      As far as Russia goes, well their ships carrying helicopters to Syria have a habit of turning back.

      July 22, 2012 at 1:42 am | Reply
  14. Muin

    lol. I don't know when CFR drops u president.

    July 21, 2012 at 8:39 am | Reply
    • Mombasa 69


      July 21, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
  15. xfiler93

    LIke anyone connected with the UN actually thought it would work?LOL the UN is totally incompetent and useless.

    July 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  16. mike

    By pushing a plan that has zero chance of being accepted, and does not even call for regime change, Kofi Annan's plan does nothing more than prolong the existence of the Assad regime (with a bit of help from Russia, China, and Iran). I understand the man is trying to walk a fine line, but for governments to cling to a bad idea that from the start which people knew it very likely would not work, which has done nothing more than buy time for the regime to continue slaughtering its people, well, at some point you have to be considered an enabler. By naively hanging on to his plan, Kofi has helped caused the death of thousands by buying the regime time. Keep in mind that it was done his way in Darfour. The problem is that everyone that the Sudanese government wanted dead in Darfour is very much dead. Kofi seems to have a lousy track record.

    July 22, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
  17. mike

    Its flat out hilarious that you think the USA has lost out to Russia and China. America's economy is 5 times the size of the Chinese. The Russians back in the 90's were routed from Grozny despite having as much as a 10 to 1 advantage and it turned out that most of their forces there were stoned and sickly. China does have a fair amount of subs but they're very loud (in contrast to their US counterparts) and easy to track and take out. They only have a couple of planes with stealth technology and none are operational. Oh by the way, the USA currently holds the record of having the fastest supercomputer in the world.
    But hey, don't feel bad you were wrong, all this is hidden inside books and someone like yourself would not be expected to read them.

    July 22, 2012 at 1:55 am | Reply
  18. dd

    Obama was the only world leader who could stop the carnage in Syria. He elected not to. That's not bad. If Muslims want to support tyrants they must suffer the consequences to remove them. The West is not going to rescue Islam from Islam. Islam has to make a choice. They can embrace the taking of human life or they can shun it. At this time, Islam is a people of killers. They should be allowed to kill each other. There is nothing the West can do to alter that behavior. Obama is right in not intervening. Islam has to make a choice. They can embrace killing everyone who doesn't agree with them or they can become human.

    July 22, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  19. Majoba the greek

    This man has some crazy ideas, wanting the U.S. to disarm itself, or thinks the U.N. should be able to tell America what to do and how to organize our armed forces......BS! Organize your own house before you take on more than you can handle. He has proven himself a control freak out of control.
    I don't know who appointed him to his position,,,,but it was probably himself!

    July 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  20. dom

    US poverty on track to rise to highest since 1960s

    Amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net, the ranks of the poor are on track to climb to levels unseen since the 1960s

    CBS news story

    I don't mind reading about wars. Please do not insist that I must join in.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  21. cachead

    Annan has been useless in Syria. He was useless at the UN so it is not surprising that none of his plans ever amount to much. He should go back to Ghana and enjoy his retirement years.

    July 23, 2012 at 1:45 am | Reply
  22. Conrad Shull


    July 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  23. Jon

    The Annan "Plan" was always a ridiculous joke. Since when does peace diplomacy consist in saying "please everyone, stop killing each other." Annan isn't even secretary general anymore - who chose him to come up with a "plan"? His "plan" looks like something I would write up in one minute while drinking beer and gratifying myself.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:09 am | Reply
  24. ted

    Annan's plan is a diplomatic cover over the ugly reality of the civil war. Time to change the logo as Red Cross did.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  25. mhill68123

    Annan is such a criminal, what did you expect to happen?
    This POS should be in a prison somewhere for the crimes he committed while at the UN.

    July 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  26. Jacknyd

    Did anyone actually believe that the UN or Annan could stop the killing in Syria? No one pays any attention to either of them, They talk talk talk, but they never act. The UN is a joke and waste of American and other countries money.

    July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply

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