Desperate to halt Syria's bloodshed without military intervention - an urgency that Bashar al-Assad has exploited throughout the revolution - Kofi Annan and the powers that he represents have fallen back into the strongman's traps. After waiting out another violent week to negotiate a UN-assisted observer mission, the former UN Secretary-General finds himself twisting in the wind of al-Assad's duplicity. Annan received an inadequate response to his peace proposal before addressing the Arab League on Friday, and Syrian media subsequently used his statements to validate a non-interventionist policy.
Now al-Assad has given his formal reply to Annan, the UN and Aaron League: Syria's regime demands that Annan pass along orders for the opposition to disarm and give up their weapons "in exchange for a full pardon." He must also provide "guarantees" from Syria's neighbors to seal the border and cease the foreign debate over arming the opposition. Only then will the regime "discuss with him the idea of putting in place a neutral monitoring system." A national dialogue would begin at an undetermined point in the future.
Moscow quickly backed these terms, undermining its increasingly tough rhetoric against al-Assad. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters: "We believe the Syrian government should quickly, without delay, support (Annan's) approaches. We will expect the same from the armed and political opposition. Only by receiving agreement in principle with what (Annan) is promoting in his contacts with the Syrians can the process of a truce begin - and after that the start of a Syrian dialogue."
al-Assad's resignation isn't part of the equation.
Annan has pleaded for unity between the UN and Arab League in order to "shift the dynamics of the conflict," but the envoy's interactions with al-Assad are contributing to the status quo. "Wait until Sunday and you will have good news," Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, said of a "comprehensive political process" with the body - as if anything good follows the regime's politicking. What did follow is another double-suicide bombing nearly identical to the previous attacks in Damascus: early morning, government headquarters, rapid media reaction during high-level international contacts. An organized power is clearly orchestrating these precise attacks and, if al-Qaeda cells were truly responsible for Syrian territory, they could be allowed to produce the regime's desired effects.
Further demonstrating his lack of sincerity, al-Assad's regime is already using a potential UN-monitoring team to criticize the Arab League's previous mission in January. "Guarantees" are needed because of "the lessons" learned from the AL's mission, implying that the League was responsible for the ongoing violence. In al-Assad's world, his security forces withdrew from all urban hotspots and were forced to fight back when armed militias "terrorized" the populace. During this time local activists and conscious Arab League monitors documented the regime's crude use of camouflage to hide or disguise military vehicles within Syria's cities.
The regime is currently contracting its dirty work to Annan, demanding that he facedown Western and Gulf powers before offering the slightest cooperation in return. Syrian state media would pick up unverified reports that Saudi Arabia is delivering "military equipment" to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a potential development that corresponded with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)'s embassy closure. The temporary endgame is unforgiving to Syria's revolutionaries. Now al-Assad's regime can stall even longer without punishment from the international community, attack in the name of self defense and blame the final political breakdown on the opposition and foreign powers, thus triggering a new cycle of political and military maneuvering.