Syria: Annan’s dilemma

Syria kofi annan talks


Kofi Annan’s efforts to pacify Syria face growing criticism. Violence continues and few hope that real peace talks can happen soon.  Diplomats are asking how long Annan can keep going.  In a new piece for Foreign Policy, I set out the dilemma he faces:

The former U.N. Secretary-General has made it clear that he knows his mission is close to failure. But it’s very difficult for him to call the whole thing off. While violence has continued in Syria at what Annan calls “unacceptable” levels, the death-rate has generally been lower than prior to the “ceasefire” he engineered in April. But whoever is attacking the U.N. observers probably wants to foment a full-scale war, and fighting appears not only to be on the rise again but also to be spreading into Lebanon.

If Annan were to quit now — precipitating the withdrawal of U.N. military personnel from Syria — he could risk a further escalation. This presents an ethical dilemma: Is it better for the United Nations to oversee, and arguably provide cover for, the current violence or retreat and open the way for something potentially worse?

Read my full attempt at an answer here.