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Syrian rebels call for peace plan to be declared a failure

If the Free Syrian Army abandons the peace plan, which they warned yesterday they might do, any vestiges of restraint – on either side – could vanish.

Khaled al-Hariri/REUTERS
Members of the United Nations observers mission in Syria return to a hotel in Damascus, May 30.

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Syrian rebel forces are calling for the end of the United Nations peace plan for Syria, which would eliminate the only mechanism in place for instilling any sort of restraint on either side of the anti-government uprising that has become increasingly violent.

The peace plan includes a cease-fire, which has been repeatedly violated since its implementation in April but still has acted as something of a tempering force for both the government and the rebels. If the Free Syrian Army (FSA) abandons the peace plan, any last efforts at restraint could vanish.

FSA leader Col. Qassim Saadeddine said in a video message yesterday that the FSA would consider itself "no longer bound" by UN special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan if President Bashar al-Assad's regime missed the deadline, BBC reports.

Citing last week's massacre in Houla, in which 108 people were killed, most of them by execution, he said "there is no more justification for us to unilaterally respect the truce because [President Bashar al-Assad] has buried Annan's plan," Agence France-Presse reports.

FSA head Gen. Riyad Asaad denied there was a deadline, but urged Mr. Annan to declare his peace plan a failure "so that we would be free to carry out any military operation against the regime," according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the US envoy to the UN, Susan Rice, issued a dire prediction about the course of the conflict. The New York Times reports that while speaking to reporters yesterday after a UN Security Council briefing, she said, “There seems to me to be only one other alternative, and that is indeed the worst case, which seems unfortunately at the present to be the most probable. And that is that the violence escalates, the conflict spreads and intensifies, it reaches a higher degree of severity, it involves countries in the region, and it takes on increasingly sectarian forms, and we have a major crisis not only in Syria but in the region.”

If that happens, she warned, “The Council’s unity is exploded, the Annan plan is dead and this becomes a proxy conflict with arms flowing in from all sides.”

Rice also said that the Security Council and international community are "left with the option only of having to consider whether they're prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this council," according to BBC.

The implication there is that because of the steadfast opposition of council members Russia and China to stronger action against the Assad regime, international actors will not be able to rely on the Security Council to take the lead. The US, Britain, and France seem to hold the Assad government mostly responsible for the violence and have focused on actions against the regime, but Russia and China have been insistent that the rebels also deserve much of the blame and have blocked efforts that only target the regime.

Mr. Annan's deputy, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, was more tempered than Ms. Rice in his remarks, but said that council members "had an understanding that any sliding toward a full-scale civil war in Syria would be catastrophic and the Security Council now needs to have that kind of strategic discussion on how that needs to be avoided," according to The New York Times.

A senior Western official told the Times that Mr. Guéhenno said direct talks between the government and rebels "could not be expected" at this stage. The official also said "it was not a given" that Annan's peace plan would be re-upped by the council when it came time for renewal in July.

Amid the diplomatic discussion, UN monitors in Syria reported yesterday that they found evidence of another massacre, this time near Dair Alzour in eastern Syria. They found 13 men bound and shot, many in the head and seemingly from a short distance, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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