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Monday, March 2, 2015

U.N. envoy to Syria’s disastrous failure

U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has succeeded in achieving only one thing: arousing anger in most Syrians.
He started his mission four months ago with a disappointing plan based on a ceasefire in Aleppo. But he is yet to accomplish anything. Although he focused his ambitions on a cessation of hostilities in only two neighborhoods in Aleppo, the proposal didn’t gain a significant response. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed on the ceasefire in just one neighborhood, because has no authority there. Meanwhile, the armed opposition didn’t concern itself with the international envoy’s plans.

De Mistura’s mission was more like a smoke curtain; he left the international coalition to fight on behalf of the regime in areas occupied by ISIS, and disregarded the daily systematic attacks perpetrated by Assad’s forces in civilian areas. The goal of Syria’s embattled president was and still is to expand the scope of the tragedy in order to force millions of Syrians to busy themselves with searching for food and shelters day after day.
De Mistura’s four months was wasted - Syrians only saw him smiling with Assad, who has killed more than a quarter of a million people so far. Just like his predecessors, the U.N. envoy has filled the diplomatic void. He has done what it takes to distract the various forces and the 20 million Syrians, who are mostly living without housing or basic needs.

No authority

What does the international envoy want to achieve if he fulfills his plan to stop fighting in the two Aleppo neighborhoods for six weeks? Perhaps providing food supplies? This was previously done through a rescue mission, without it being considered a political solution. Of course, de Mistura can throw the ball in our court now and ask: “What else can I do when I have neither the power nor the authorization to impose international sanctions?”
What stirred the doubts of the Syrians in the envoy’s mission is that he launched it saying that the future plan is a regime approved by Assad!
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
We know that de Mistura’s authority does not outdo that of Angelina Jolie’s, who is visiting the region in highly respected humanitarian missions. We know that he cannot do anything so dramatic as to do what the majority want and get rid of Assad and his regime. Nevertheless, he is expected to at least start from where the Geneva Conference ended, which stipulates the establishment of a new fusion government formed with remnants of Assad’s regime but without the Syrian president himself, in addition to the opposition forces and representatives of all Syrian society, including Alawites. To a certain extent, it is close to what some of the regime’s allies, such as the Russians, were saying over and over; that they are not going to cling to Assad if an acceptable solution is found.

Difficult equation

Forging ahead with an acceptable solution is going to be a difficult equation for de Mistura. He might be able to find an equation that can convince the parties to make concessions and gradually narrow the distances. His mission has become more like swimming in the ocean; he spent four months in order to try to achieve a cessation of fighting in one or two neighborhoods in one city in a country that is being burnt and destroyed every day. I think his plan caused the dispersal of previous ideas and assured Assad and his regime, which were afraid of the international intervention under the pretext of fighting ISIS.
The envoy and his mission prevented the exertion of further pressures on Assad, despite the fact that dozens of countries from around the world have their aircrafts and troops wandering over Syria. What de Mistura did was just granting Assad and his men the confidence that they can continue killing more than tens of thousands of civilians, and destroying cities with barrels, rockets and mercenaries from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq.
What stirred the doubts of the Syrians in the envoy’s mission is that he launched it saying that the future plan is a regime approved by Assad! Practically, de Mistura’s misguided efforts have nullified all the huge international overtures carefully deployed previously and the Geneva peace accords. He lined up alongside Iran. His actions show that he is like Walid al-Muallem or Faisal al-Muqdad; like just another employee at the Syrian foreign ministry! We kept silent on his actions for four months, hoping that he would find a solution, but the situation has worsened further, tarnishing what remains of the goodwill that member states of the United Nations. 

Due to the volume of public anger surrounding his post, maybe it is better for de Mistura to pack his bags and leave the region.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 28, 2015. 


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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.