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Syria Cease-Fire Occurring Without the Cease-Fire Part

It is not going to be fun watching Kofi Annan get increasingly exasperated over the next week. Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, delivered a cease-fire agreement in the Syrian uprising, to which the Assad regime signed off. However, ever since the signing, the violence has continued, including today, with renewed assaults by military forces on several towns. So Annan has delivered the latest in what will be a long series of ultimatums.

The UN Security Council has urged Syria to implement “urgently and visibly” a peace plan requiring a 10 April deadline for ending a military offensive against the opposition.

Envoy Kofi Annan’s plan calls for Damascus to pull back troops and heavy weaponry by that date, and for a full ceasefire by 48 hours later.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict was getting worse.

Mr Annan urged both sides to seize the moment and end the violence.

“Let us stop the killing and start a serious political dialogue,” he told the UN General Assembly.

I think French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has it right when he says that “Bashar Assad is deceiving us.” This was the case when the Arab League sent in monitors to observe a prior cease-fire, and it remains the case today. Assad’s whole strategy is to buy time. A cease-fire that doesn’t trigger for a week or more is perfect for him.

Annan has even shaded back his cease-fire timeline. Originally the cease-fire was due on April 10, now that’s just the beginning of it, with a completion date demanded by the morning of April 12. Annan will travel to Syria on April 11, part of the supervisory process on the cease-fire.

The United States has allowed the UN to take the lead on this, which some might see as part of their “lead from behind” strategy on the Arab uprising. But it’s more muddled than that. For instance, US officials met with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a refreshingly realist sign that they understand who is likely to be in charge shortly and that they need to work with them. However, in other cases, the reaction to the uprising can only be described as exploitative:

Covert US strikes against alleged militants in Yemen have risen steeply during the Arab spring, and are currently at the same level as the CIA’s controversial drone campaign in Pakistan, a new study by the Bureau reveals.

At least 27 US military and CIA strikes involving cruise missiles, aircraft, drones or naval bombardments have taken place in the volatile Gulf nation to date, killing hundreds of alleged militants linked to the regional al Qaeda franchise. But at least 55 civilians have died too, the study found.

In the latest attack on March 30, two linked US drone strikes struck a vehicle and house in Azan, Shabwa province. Up to five alleged militants died. But a second vehicle travelling the other way was also struck, killing one civilian and injuring at least five others, according to officials, medics and eyewitnesses.

So we’re responding to a campaign for freedom and self-determination with bombs and airstrikes against perceived enemies. And that’s backed by the new leader in Yemen, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who appears to be as on board with the anti-terrorism campaign as his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Remember that, while diplomats handled the engagement in the other Arab uprising countries, the only US official to talk to his Yemeni counterparts was the counterterrorism chief, John Brennan.

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David Dayen

David Dayen