With 45,000 or more Syrians dead at the hands of Bashar al Assad and his "security forces," it should be obvious that any conclusion to the current civil war must include his departure from power as soon as possible.
But it isn’t obvious. Unsurprisingly Russia is trying to save him, and is pushing a "peace plan" that leaves him in place. As the Washington Post reported today, Russia is still promoting a plan, agreed in Geneva when Kofi Annan was the UN envoy, that might save Assad:
The plan envisioned an open-ended cease-fire to be enforced by hundreds of U.N. monitors, followed by talks on a political transition. It called for establishing a transitional government of national unity that could include members of Assad’s government, the opposition and other groups to oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections. But, on Russia’s insistence, it left the door open for Assad being part of the transition process....
That plan was rejected by opposition forces in Syria, but appears to be back--under the new UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi. The New York Times story on Brahimi’s visits to Damascus and Moscow have him proposing a transitional government that would serve until Assad’s term expires in 2014. Under this plan the rebels must negotiate with Assad, and he may remain president for another year or more.
It will never work, nor should it. The Daily Star of Beirut explained why in an editorial:
The international community, and its envoy, should declare their failure and pull out of the effort, unless there is a stunning secret piece of information that remains hidden from the public. For now, all of the options appear to involve Assad’s remaining in power, in some shape or form, and everyone knows that the Syrian people will not accept this. The task is to stop the bloodshed and build a better political future for Syria; Brahimi and his calendar of meetings give no indication that the mission will succeed.
The Daily Star also explained the background:
When Brahimi took up his post, there were approximately 10,000 Syrian men, women and children who were alive. His latest trip just happened to coincide with the news of massacres of civilians. This has been a steady feature of the tragedy in Syria, where news of the imminent arrival of certain foreign guests, or military observers, causes people to wonder if they will be alive to see the end of the event in question. One may respect Brahimi’s perseverance, but the veteran Algerian diplomat and everyone else are aware that it’s an impossible mission. It would be better for Brahimi to drop the pretense, and salvage the final phase of his distinguished career.
Of course, the same was said of Kofi Annan, who should have resigned his post far sooner than he did--when it became apparent that his mission was being used by the regime to prolong its days in power. Brahimi’s mission is useful only to Assad and to Russia right now. He would do much more good by resigning and stating the obvious: that Assad cannot remain even for a transition period, and that any plan that includes this possibility is immoral and impractical.
Brahimi said in Damascus that "Change should not be cosmetic; the Syrian people need and require real change, and everyone understands what that means." Do they? Does Moscow? Does Brahimi? The French government’s spokesman avoided indirection and said clearly "Bashar al-Assad, who is still ferociously repressing his people and bears responsibility for the 45,000 victims of this conflict, cannot be part of the political transition." Until Brahimi starts speaking that way, his mission like that of his predecessor Kofi Annan will do no good.