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Kofi Annan admits Syria plan failing, calls for international action

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN's special envoy to Syria, essentially admitted his mediation efforts have failed in a speech at the UN and laid most of the blame at the feet of Bashar al-Assad.

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Annan said in his speech today that "as we demand compliance with international law and the six point plan it must be made clear that there are consequences if compliance is not forthcoming." But, what consequences? And even if additional sanctions could be agreed upon, would they be more frightening to Assad and his supporters than the loss of power and position? Muammar Qaddafi of Libya was summarily executed by his former subjects when he lost his war to hold on to power. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who went far more peacefully and quietly, was just sentenced to spending the rest of his life in jail, with two of his sons also facing long jail terms. Assad is surely looking at the fates of his regional fears and betting that fighting, and winning, is in his own best interests.

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For now, his efforts to win that war are bloody and vicious. The UN High Commission for Human Rights says the use of torture has been wide spread in government detention centers. The children of wanted rebels are rounded up to generate leverage to convince their parents to surrender. Some of those children have been subjected to "sexual violence" while in custody, the UN says. In Homs, a stronghold of support for the uprising, government snipers man rooftops, and indiscriminantly shot people when they venture out of their homes for supplies. Heavy artillery and rocket fire continues to pound densely populated areas.

A farmer who survived the slaughter at Mazraat al-Qubair by hiding in an olive grove, told Reuters of how the area was pounded with artillery, then mixed units of regular Army and shabiha moved in. He watched them enter three houses, heard gunshots, then they emerged and set the homes on fire. He returned home to find nothing but charred bodies, most from a large Sunni Arab family in the area.

Mazraat al-Qubair is about 10 miles from Hama, which Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, turned into a killing ground in 1982. The city was a center of support for an Islamist uprising against the country's Baath regime, and the elder Assad put it down after he moved tanks and infantry into the city and killed everything that moved. Human rights groups estimate that at least 10,000 people were killed in that slaughter.

Now the ghosts of Hama are being joined by a new generation of victims. Thirty years ago the international community did not intervene, and the Assad regime survived and has thrived in the decades since. The younger Assad is now running his father's playbook, and seems unlikely to shift course in the face of condemnation or scolding from podiums at the UN.

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

Follow Dan Murphy on Twitter.


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