Against the severity of the political turmoil in Syria, the Annan plan is a bouquet of propositions that are far from commanding the ability to set in motion the needed developments, even if those propositions were to be carried out to the letter. A plan's vision should be proportional to the severity of the crisis at hand.
An equally important deficiency is the inner logic of the plan: It lacks a sophisticated legal basis. For instance, the most important article of the plan requires that “the Syrian government should immediately cease troops' movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centers.” But the plan has nothing to define what is meant by “population centers.” Should we refer to Syrian administrative codes to understand this term? Or is it enough to assume it means, “Where there are a few houses?” Syria can easily claim that the places where tanks are stationed are not legally population centers.
Thus, the Annan plan has reminded us once again that international diplomats should back their proposals with a very sophisticated legal framework, lest those proposals turn out to be wish lists without legal force.
In this vein, for instance, the Annan plan says nothing about implementation. Who will decide if the plan is being correctly implemented or not at all? Is Kofi Annan the person to decide whether the Syrian government has respected his plan? If not, what is the alternative legal procedure he posits to us?
The timing of the Annan plan was another lethal blow to the possibility of defusing the Syrian crisis. Firstly, it weakened the international pressure on Syria, and then set its government on fuzzy terrain. Small wonder that the plan was welcomed by the Syrian government as a “kiss of life.” Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Valid Muallim has even claimed that countries like Turkey are violating the Annan plan. This is a crystal-clear illustration of the Annan plan leading to ironic outcomes.
Since its announcement, the Annan plan has only had one useful function: It gave the Syrian government time out from the need to bend under international pressure. There is no doubt that the Annan plan is being systemically violated by the Syrian government. However, since the plan has no clear sanctioning procedure, it has become the mechanism that perpetually delays more serious proposals for the resolution of the Syrian crisis.
The Annan plan requires also that “the Syrian government should work with the [UN] Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.” However, so far, the UN reporting performance has been very poor. There is no clear official report that reveals how the UN supervision mechanism in Syria has developed or failed. All in all, we hear nothing more about Syria other than the horrific news of daily violent attacks. The UN supervision mechanism should give a true picture of the events that are keeping Syria destabilized.
The Syrian crisis is becoming something quite different from the other examples of the Arab Spring, like Libya or Egypt. The Syria question is not about whether this country will be democratic, but whether Syria will descend into civil war. At this juncture, Kofi Annan, the architect of the Annan plan for Syria, faces a historic responsibility. Without further delay, he should declare that his plan has failed. This is a precondition for the materialization of some other international alternatives. If Annan does not do this, his plan may, ironically, become the mechanism that destabilizes the Syrian social fabric.