Faced with calls from the international community to see some sort of progress on a negotiated settlement, Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to an April 10 deadline to start implementing Kofi Annan’s UN-backed plan.
The deadline would have Syrian government forces withdrawing from cities and granting humanitarian access, as well as moving toward a full ceasefire within 48 hours of the deadline.
The first part should be easy enough. The second part would require the rebel factions to stop fighting — and there’s no indication so far they would consider doing so.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Assad against having any “excuses,” but since yesterday she was insisting that the US position is still an unconditional demand for regime change, it seems inevitable that even if the continued fighting is a function of the rebels launching post-deadline attacks the US will blame Assad.
Of course, Assad hasn’t set a great precedent for this, having agreed to a similar Arab League-backed plan months ago and never followed through on withdrawing the troops from the cities. It was the lack of progress on that particular “agreement” that allowed the Saudi-led faction in the Arab League to push for a policy of backing the rebels and imposing regime change.
For now, Syria’s civil war will continue; next week seems a long way off. The rebel factions have been angling for ways to funnel more arms into the country, and the smuggling along the Lebanese border is causing tension between the Syrian government and local Lebanese governments in the border area.
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