When Barack Obama released a video message to Sudan and South Sudan last Sunday, he urged the people of both countries to reject armed conflict and return to negotiations. Obama gravely warned that “heated rhetoric on both sides has raised the risk of war.” With the two countries once again on the brink of a full-scale armed conflict, the President’s message was well-intentioned.
The only real surprise about the six-point peace plan for Syria put forward by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan is why it took until yesterday, the eve of its proposed ceasefire, for the world to declare it a failure. Reacting to the latest violence throughout Syria on Monday, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Washington is “not hopeful” that Tuesday would see a cessation of hostilities. But any such hope was naïve to begin with. Among the things the past year has taught us is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a master of diversion.
It's Time to Add Syria to Kofi Annan's Long List of Failures
April 05, 2012
It should have raised red flags when both Syria and Russia approved of Kofi Annan’s February 23 appointment as the United Nations-Arab League Joint Special Envoy (JSE) to Syria. But after bickering world powers repeatedly failed to agree on an emissary to broker an end to the killing spree in which Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 9,000 people, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, was content to laud Annan as “an outstanding choice.” Certainly the Ghana-born Annan comes loaded with credentials: former U.N.
The Stalled Revolution
March 29, 2012
On a Monday in late February, I received a Facebook message from a Syrian activist notifying me that a demonstration was due to start in half an hour in a heavily guarded section of Damascus. The occasion was a funeral, and so the protest was likely to be large. “Two of the five martyrs are children, and funeral processions for children are always big,” the message explained. I took a cab to the Kafr Sousa district, an area that is home to many government buildings, and walked for 20 minutes, until I came upon about 75 casually dressed men toting machine guns.
The Thought Police
March 14, 2012
Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I.
Why Israel Still Can’t Trust That Obama Has Its Back
March 07, 2012
When the President of the United States repeatedly says he’s got your back, and in precisely those words, what more can you ask for? Yet as I read Obama’s interview with Jeff Goldberg in The Atlantic, then his speech to the AIPAC convention, and finally reports of his meeting with Netanyahu, I felt increasingly uneasy. True, Obama went farther than he ever has in reassuring Israel of his commitment to stopping a nuclear Iran. He explicitly mentioned the military option. He upheld Israel’s right to defend itself.
It’s Time to Use American Airpower in Syria
March 05, 2012
After a year of bloodshed, the crisis in Syria has reached a decisive moment. It is estimated that more than 7,500 lives have been lost. The United Nations has declared that Syrian security forces are guilty of crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, the execution of defectors, and the widespread torture of prisoners. Bashar Al-Assad is now doing to Homs what his father did to Hama. Aerial photographs procured by Human Rights Watch show a city that has been laid to waste by Assad’s tanks and artillery.
Friends of Syria: Obama, Clinton, the Saudi King, All Pusillanimous, One Worse Than the Other
February 29, 2012
I know that this is harsh. But I use the word pusillanimous in its ugliest meaning—which is the “unmanly” meaning—especially in relation to Saudi Arabia, having stockpiled weapons and trained soldiers for decades so that by now it is the only Arab country capable of taking on the monstrous regime in Damascus … and winning. I say “unmanly” because the kingdom has done nothing of the sort.
The Horrifying Atrocities in the U.N. Report on Syria: A Primer
February 24, 2012
A U.N. panel tasked with investigating the human rights situation in Syria released its report yesterday. It’s a disturbing, but sobering, read. Based on 369 interviews, the report documents the many crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime during the past year; below, we’ve gathered some of the most appalling violations. Torturing Children “Children continued to be arbitrarily arrested and tortured while in detention. According to former detainees interviewed by the commission, children were treated in the same way as adults, in blatant disregard of their age.
A Time to Act
February 23, 2012
Thousands of people have already died in Syria, and it appears likely that thousands more will die in the weeks and months to come. Bashar Al Assad’s forces show no sign of relenting, and the international community shows no sign of coming to the rescue of the Syrian people. China and Russia have effectively blocked any chance of working through the United Nations. World opinion is horrified, but world leaders are paralyzed. No lack of diplomatic effort has been expended in trying to get Assad to back down; but these efforts have done nothing to stop the bloodshed.