But Mr. Obama’s choices are no better than they were when the uprising in Syria began nearly a year and a half ago. A bombing campaign like the one conducted last year by NATO in Libya with strong American and Arab League support is not feasible in Syria: the battle is being waged in crowded cities, with little chance to attack the Syrian Army without the risk of high civilian casualties.
Mr. Obama, NATO nations and the Arab League have never wanted to send in a ground force, which would probably face heavy casualties in what many fear is emerging as a civil war.
The White House issued a statement on Saturday once again calling on Syria to uphold commitments it has made in recent months, “including the full implementation of a cease-fire.” The statement added, “We are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition” called for in two United Nations Security Council resolutions, and “the sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody civil war.”The Obama administration is resisting calls to arm rebel groups, for fear that they are not an organized force and could eventually turn on one another.
“The problem is that if we do nothing and Syria explodes, we have a broader conflict in the Middle East,” a senior American diplomat said last week, before the United Nations announcement, adding, “But our options aren’t any better than they were a year ago.”
The observers had been the foundation of a six-point peace plan that Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general and the special envoy to Syria, had sought to hammer out with the consent of Mr. Assad and his foreign sponsors, including Russia and Iran.“Troop-contributing countries are saying our men and women are at risk, we are having second thoughts about this operation,” Mr. Fawzi said. “They are in danger and they want the danger to go away.”
“There is nothing final,” he said. “It is a suspension, not termination.” But patrols would resume only “when we return to a situation where both sides show us that they are serious and earnest about stopping the killing of each other.”By mid-July the original 90-day mandate for the observers will expire. But the suspension, if prolonged, will focus new pressure on those governments allied with Syria, particularly Russia and Iran, which have backed the plan as the only way to stop the violence.
The inclusion of Iran in an international group proposed by Mr. Annan to discuss ways to save the peace plan — a “contact group” in the United Nations’ parlance — was rejected by the United States, while Russia insisted on it. That raised serious questions about whether the contact group would ever meet.While the UN has devoted its attention to impugning the sovereignty of peaceful nations with its rants about climate change, carbon credits, and the law of the seas ... it has absolutely no impact on rogue nations. And one might argue that the latter was the defining reason for having the UN in the first place. After the abject failure of The League of Nations, you'd think they could have done a better job the second time around. Appears not.Inside Syria, opposition activists called the observer mission a sham that had only served to deflect attention from the failure of the world powers to stop Mr. Assad’s forces from killing civilians.
“Their presence is just like their absence,” Mohammed el-Muetassem bi’Allah, 18, an activist from Homs, said of the observers. “They are incapable of stopping the violence. They were there and the shelling was intensifying on Homs and Khaldiya.”