Heed Balkan lessons for a fragmenting Syria and revise Kofi Annan plan
Kofi Annan's peace plan is failing to stop violence and ensure a political dialogue in Syria. To avoid a Balkans-like tragedy, an updated plan must include negotiations between Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition and deploy armed UN peacekeepers.
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The plan is based on the good will of President Bashar al-Assad to stop the repression of political dissent and punitive military actions against communities where an insurrection has arisen over the last year. The plan also presupposes that once the repression and the killing have stopped, a “dialogue on transition” will begin.
The Syrian authorities have no incentive to change the present pattern of behavior. The Security Council foresaw 30 UN monitors in Syria, expanding the number to 300. The next weeks and months can be spent uselessly arguing whether instead of 300 there should be 3,000, but the pattern of behavior will not change, as the Balkans can teach us.
Throughout the 1990s the international community had far more monitors in the Balkans (even peacekeepers in Bosnia), but that did not stop the butchery. The effort to stop killing through monitoring relies on exposure and shame as a restraining moral imperative. But a regime that has already killed an estimated 10,000 people in the past 14 months has lost moral considerations of that sort, if it had them earlier.
It is not only defiance that comes from the regime now, there is also the element of fear: Those who have killed so far fear the retribution of the future, especially if the opposition continues requesting the head of the president as an unrealistic precondition.
Indeed, the regime is not only continuing to kill, monitors or no monitors, but it is also claiming that within this framework of violence it is conducting a reforming process, through multiparty elections.
Mr. Annan's six-point plan, therefore, is failing to both stop violence in Syria and ensure a political dialogue. The Assad regime is assuming that it can drag its feet with the implementation of the plan for as long as there is no other alternative on the horizon. It is assuming, as did former President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia throughout the Yugoslav disintegration, that the West has no stomach for an international intervention against it.
And it seems that the Syrian regime is presently right.
The calculation is that the West fears that an intervention will move the country toward disintegration along sectarian and ethnic lines. This Balkan nightmare scenario of carved out mini-states of Alawites, Kurds, and Druze, among others, associated with waves of ethnic and identity cleansing would be exponentially more threatening as the international environment is taken into account.