Yesterday the efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria finally seemed to make some forward progress. The UN Security Council voted to send 30 UN personnel there to enforce, or at least to observe, the cease-fire that is supposed to be in place. That vote was even unanimous, meaning that both Russia and China joined in voting “yes” after many months of obstructing anything to do with Syria at the Council.
Then again, you might recall that “observers” have already been sent there, namely last Christmas and by the Arab League acting alone. Those observers then departed again in fairly short order, as the Arab League formally suspended its monitoring mission on 28 January 2012, citing “a harsh new government crackdown [that] made it too dangerous to proceed and was resulting in the deaths of innocent people across the country.”
Spiegel Beirut correspondent Ulrike Putz has little more confidence that things will be any different this time:
That Scheitern mit Ansage translates to something like “pre-announced failure.” The key is that, once again and by the UN resolution’s terms, it is to Syrian government forces that the security of the observers is being entrusted. As the December/January observer experience showed, that’s a clear-cut recipe for rendering meaningless the Security Council’s insistence that they be able to travel wherever they want, and interview anyone (individuals only) that they want without those individuals then getting into trouble.
There is another dynamic in play as well. That NYT article referenced above mentions the element of a full 250 observers, also with permission to travel anywhere they want, that was an original part of Kofi Annan’s peace plan, but implies that the Security Council will vote to up the total from 60 to that level of 250 soon and so dispatch reinforcements. But Frau Putz sees the current 60 (first elements arriving in-country tomorrow) as a replacement for those 250, not a down-payment. Furthermore, the Syrian government has won the right to determine the countries those observers will come from.
Finally, there is probably not much of a cease-fire to observe anyway. Anti-government activitists report additional bombardment of Homs; and government media alleges that its soldiers have been attacked.
“So the observer mission in Syria stands ready to fail, before it even has begun,” Frau Putz concludes. Then again, what does she know? After all, her report includes the damning sentence “Above the city [Homs] drones crossed overhead.” But the Syrian regime hardly possesses any drone aircraft capability.