Rice: International Community Faces “Moment of Truth” on Syria
By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
April 10, 2012
Washington — According to U.N.–Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which Syria’s Bashar al-Assad agreed to on March 27, Syrian forces were to have completed their withdrawal from populated areas of the country by April 10 in preparation for a two-day cease-fire with the Syrian opposition.
However, U.S. Special Representative to the U.N. Susan Rice said April 10 that the Assad regime is failing to live up to its pledges, and the U.N. Security Council may be facing a “moment of truth” on whether to increase pressure on Syrian authorities or risk seeing the country devolve into a civil war, with consequences for the region as well as the Syrian people.
Speaking in New York after a Security Council discussion on Syria, Rice said, “Should the Syrian government yet again refuse to implement its commitments, make promises and then break them and continue and escalate the killing, then I think it will be clear to all that there isn’t yet prospect for a diplomatic solution.”
The Obama administration believes that “we face, very soon, a moment of truth, where if in fact the government continues to fail to fulfill its obligations, which it gives every indication it will continue to do, the international community and this Council … will have to determine whether they remain unified” in support of Annan’s plan and will “take the logical next step” of increasing pressure on the Assad regime “through collective action,” she said.
If it fails to do so, Rice said, “it looks quite obvious that what is increasingly becoming a violent crisis will potentially devolve quite regrettably into full-scale civil war with all of the consequences that that entails for the people of Syria, for neighboring countries, and the wider international community.”
Annan sent a letter to the Council April 10 in which he asked the body to “register its deep concern” at the failure of Syrian authorities to meet their commitments.
Despite their assurances to the contrary, “credible reports indicate that … Syrian armed forces have conducted rolling military operations in population centers, characterized by troop movements into towns supported by artillery fire,” Annan said, adding that in recent days Syrian noncompliance with their commitments under the peace plan “has become clear.”
“While some troops and heavy weapons have been withdrawn from some localities, this appears to be often limited to a repositioning of heavy weapons that keeps cities within firing range,” Annan said.
Rice’s and Annan’s comments came one day after Syrian forces attacked refugees who had fled the violence into neighboring Turkey. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters April 9 that Turkish authorities told their counterparts in the Obama administration that the Syrians’ actions “were firings on innocents. These were not in response to any kind of fire.”
About 24,000 Syrian refugees live in Turkey. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced April 1 that the United States is increasing its humanitarian assistance for Syrians to $25 million, including food rations and support for Syrian refugees and their hosts.
“We join the Turkish government in calling for the Syrian regime to immediately cease fire. And these incidents are just another indication that the Assad regime does not seem at all willing to meet the commitments that it made to Kofi Annan. Not only has the violence not abated, it has been worse in recent days,” Nuland said.
Nuland said that ultimately Assad will be forced out of power.
“The question is when and the question is how many of his supporters, how many of his military are going to continue to execute his orders right up until the end and face the justice that is coming to them as well,” she said, adding that the United States “will keep squeezing and isolating this guy until the violence ends.”