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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Conrad Shull


    July 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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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