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Annan Claims to Have Brokered Cease-Fire in Syria

Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General sent as an envoy to negotiate a peace process in Syria, claims to have gotten Syria to accept his terms.

Syria has accepted a ceasefire and peace plan drawn up by U.N. and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, his spokesman said on Tuesday, even as Syrian troops thrust into Lebanon to battle rebels who had taken refuge there.

Annan conceded he faced a “long and difficult task” in ending the fighting, as rebel group leaders meeting in Turkey weighed how to unite their fractured movement and boost foreign backing for a year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

On a visit to Beijing, Annan told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that global cooperation with China and other countries was the only way to defuse the conflict, whose sectarian dimensions have raised fear it could spread and destabilise the wider region.

“I indicated that I had received a response from the Syrian government and will be making it public today, which is positive, and we hope to work with them to translate it into action,” Annan told reporters after meeting Wen.

Simply put, we have been here before. Bashar al-Assad previously accepted an Arab League cease-fire and transition process. That was the point of the Arab League monitors. Needless to say, that failed miserably. Assad’s forces violated the cease-fire almost immediately. The killing continued and never abated. Shelling from security forces occurred just steps from the Arab League monitors. Nothing changed.

I have no reason to believe that Annan’s deal will hold either. Indeed, from a logical standpoint this would be a terrible time for Assad to stand down. His forces have the fractured rebel opposition on the run. He chased them out of Homs and Idlib and stopped them in the suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian regime has the upper hand at the moment. The international community could only muster a watered-down statement of support for the Annan peace plan, and Russia and China at the Security Council will work to block any far-reaching intervention. The regime has little reason to fold.

So my expectation is a couple days of calm – or perhaps not, as fighting has moved into Lebanon – followed by Assad breaking the cease-fire, and Annan expressing disbelief, and the whole cycle repeating itself. Sometimes there are no good solutions, and for the moment at least, Syria looks to be one of those situations.

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David Dayen

David Dayen