It is clear that the gestures of cooperative diplomacy made by the Syrian President towards the international community -- the most salient being his promises to abide by Mr. Annan's six-point peace plan -- were made in bad faith. Indeed, in the end those shallow gestures represent little more than a ploy in which to give him and his regime more time to crush the mounting oppositional forces that are sprouting up all across Syria and challenging his brutal authoritarian rule.
It was April 12 that Mr. Annan's ceasefire was supposed to take effect. However, since then the violence has actually progressively become worse.
After nearly two months of condemning the violence, Mr. Annan has finally acknowledged that his six-point plan is being completely disregarded. He places the blame for this fact on the Assad regime. He has also called upon the U.N. Security Council to threaten Assad with "consequences"
if he doesn't stop the violence that is becoming progressively more prevalent throughout the country.
Whilst Russia and China did veto two Security Council resolutions earlier this year, they have nevertheless shown support for Annan's six-point peace plan, and, if they agree with Annan that it is primarily the fault of Assad that the plan is not being implemented they may also begin to apply pressure to the Syrian regime in order to make it change its policies and implement the plan -- or some alternative plan with similar criteria -- to help prevent the presently deteriorating situation from quickly escalating into all out civil war, a danger which the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says "is imminent and real."
Whilst Assad has been insisting for some time that the violence is primarily being carried out by terrorists and armed gangs, Annan has pointed out that regime-backed militia (who are known as the Shabiha
-- meaning essentially 'thugs') have free rein across the country. These thugs have demonstrated their profoundly cruel and sadistic nature in the two recent mass-murders in the villages of Houla and Al-Qubeir.
Many observers, correspondents and analysts are comparing the situation in Damascus today with Beirut in 1975 on the onset of the 15-year-long civil war that would go on to engulf Lebanon. Patrick Cockburn in a recent dispatch from Damascus
poignantly lamented that:
"It is depressing that Damascus, one of the more beautiful cities in the world, is on the edge of becoming the victim of the same sort of hatred, fear and destruction that have convulsed Beirut, Baghdad and Belfast over the past 50 years."
Paul Danahar, a correspondent for the BBC reporting from the more recent (as of writing) site of a massacre, the village of Qubair produced a very damning report
about the nature of that attack, its clear sectarian nature, and the manner in which the Syrian Army later tried to cover it up.
Mr. Annan and Mr. Ban share similar contentions regarding the situation, in light of the massacres. Annan has made clear that we cannot allow the "killing to become part of everyday reality in Syria."
Mr. Ban has also stated that it has been clear for quite some time that Mr. Assad's regime has "lost all legitimacy" stating that "any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity."
This is progress of a kind, calling a spade a spade and acting in accordance with the harsh reality on the ground is also a start.
As the situation in Syria deteriorates further we may see Assad shoring up his support base -- which is made up of minority sects within Syrian society -- and engaging in violent sectarian warfare with the majority of his countrymen in order to stay in power. Recognizing this strong possibility along with the general ruthlessness and deceitful nature of this man when dealing with his regime and the stark situation in Syria may be only elementary, but it is nonetheless essential if any headway is to be made.