Kofi Annan resigned yesterday as the United Nations-Arab League Envoy to Syria after failing to bring an end to the internecine violence that has been raging in Syria since last spring.
That Annan failed should not come as a surprise. His default is failure: Whether it was Annan’s professed failure to notice that his own son was profiting from the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq, the failure to prevent a genocide in Rwanda, or the failure to prevent mass murder in Srebrenica.
Of course, Annan did not start the war in Syria, but perhaps he made things worse by legitimizing Bashar al-Assad as an equal partner in his peace plan, despite Assad’s direct role in the slaughter of thousands. Annan made things messier still by bringing in Iran as an interlocutor, even as the world sought to isolate the Mullahs for their nuclear program, not to mention their deadly support for the regime in Damascus.
In the end, Annan’s blunders contributed significantly to a prolonged and deadly stalemate from February 23 to July 31, the length of his tenure.
The death toll in Syria during Annan’s time as envoy was just over 13,500, according to the site Syrian Martyrs, which lists the death toll at over 22,000 to date.
Annan, in fact, has already embarked on a full court press to burnish his legacy. From his parting shot in the Financial Times to the recent profile in the Washington Post, Annan is trying to lay the blame for this most recent disaster at the feet of others.
True, Syria was not a disaster of his making. But that does not mean he should be exonerated. While he pursued his misguided peace plan – the plan that gave world leaders a convenient excuse to refrain from preventing more violence in Syria – more than 13,500 people lost their lives.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.