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LOST IN THE WILDERNESS OF DIPLOMACY By Maria Wera Cedrell
2012-08-13
LOST IN THE WILDERNESS OF DIPLOMACY By Maria Wera Cedrell

The UN special envoy to Syria and former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan announced his resignation at a later date this month. He did not disclose the reasons behind his decision. This left the room to many speculations, some were wild.

Mr Annan had a long experience in the work of the UN since he was an employee there before being elevated to the position of Secretary General. He therefore knew the ins and outs of the world organization. He was aware of the red tapes. A man with this experience could not be convinced easily to accept a mission that seemed to be doomed to failure from the very first moment. One should forget about the handshakes and smiles in front of the cameras. The real talk and agreements was always occurring behind the scenes.



 

In 1996 there was a problem between the United Nation Special Commission (UNSCOM) responsible for disarming Iraq of its arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the then Iraqi government. UNSCOM was supported legally by Security Council Resolution 687. That resolution gave UNSCOM unfettered access to any site in Iraq. The commission was headed by the Swedish Ambassador Rolf Ekeus.



 

To solve the problem, Ambassador Ekeus flew to Baghdad and held talks with senior Iraqi officials. The result of these talks was an agreement between UNSCOM and Iraq. The agreement was signed by the UNSCOM Chief without consulting the permanent members in the UN Security Council.

Once Ekeus returned back to New York and presented the agreement to the Security Council, uproar started. The Swedish Ambassador resigned from his post after six months from that incident. At that time the UN Secretary General was none other than Kofi Annan. He realised that consulting and getting the approval of the big 5 Super powers in the Security Council before signing any agreement in such a delicate matter was mandatory.

In 1998 another problem emerged between UNSCOM and the Iraqi government. Iraq denied UNSCOM the access to its presidential palaces. Iraqi position in the Security Council was supported by Russia and China. The Iraqis denied UNSCOM access to those palaces.

The USA, UK and France insisted that the UN Inspectors should be granted unconditional access to everything in Iraq including presidential palaces. Again a major conflict evolved in the UN, the US supported its position by moving its aircraft carriers to the Gulf, threatening to strike if Iraq denied access to UNSCOM.


 

Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary General decided to intervene to prevent a major conflict. This time he was playing it by the superpowers’ rules. Mr Annan flew to Baghdad; there he met with senior Iraqi officials including the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He reached the famous (Deal with the Devil), a protocol that organized the inspection of Iraqi presidential palaces by a joint UNSCOM and diplomatic team. However, before signing the agreement, Mr Annan called by telephone, the foreign ministries of the 5 permanent members in the Security Council. He presented them with the draft of the agreement and asked for their approval of it.


 

Only after acquiring a unanimous approval did he sign the agreement. Upon returning back to the UN headquarters in New York he was cheered by the UN staff. This agreement was presented to the media as Mr Annan’s.

The UN under Annan wasn’t always successful in solving world problems; in 1993 a massacre occurred in Rwanda, an African country where more than 900,000 civilian were killed. During that massacre which lasted for several months, the UN stood watching! It didn’t do anything to stop it.


 

The UN role was limited to providing relief to the refugees who escaped the genocide. Mr Annan, of African origin himself, didn’t move a finger because he knew that the (game) was much bigger than him or the UN. Later he had the courage to admit that publicly. Annan also failed in Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia. There was no role for the UN in solving the Bosnian problem. Mr Annan also failed in Iraq when he withdrew the UN troops patrolling the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border under the pressure of the US administration. This withdrawal facilitated the US invasion of Iraq on March 20th 2003.



 

The Syrian uprising started in mid- March 2011, the world stood ignorant. As events unfolded and casualties started growing from a single digit to double and triple digits the world started to show interest. The real issue was that all the super powers were involved in Syria from day one. At least the 5 superpowers were involved in the Syrian crisis overtly and covertly. This is a known secret for anybody involved in world politics. Nevertheless, Mr Annan accepted the task of being a UN envoy to solve the Syrian crisis. After his long experience in world politics, he must have known that in such cases, goodwill is not enough. The support of world powers is obligatory. Their support in the media and speeches is not enough but their support in the underworld; the world of covert and special operations. In the case of Syria, this did not happen. Another thing that was lacking in Mr Annan’s mission was the world’s legal support.


 



The Security Council could not adopt a single resolution to legitimize Mr Annan’s mission. The latter’s peace plan was his own initiative; its power was based on thin air and nothing else. It was ignored by everybody including the Syrian government and the rug-tag that calls itself the Syrian armed opposition. Was Mr Annan aware of these connections, if so why did he accept this important position as the UN envoy to solve the Syrian crisis. If he wasn’t aware of all these details then he doesn’t deserve this task. Or was it a trick by a super power or more to gain time and prepare the battlefield in Syria?

While Mr Annan tolerated his failures as Secretary General, he couldn’t resign then and may have thought that the burden rests on the UN as an organization as whole. In the case of the Syrian crisis, he had the freedom to act according to his beliefs.

The UN has no spiritual power; it has no material power of its own. The UN totally depends on the power of its member states and the agreement or disagreement to use them. This basic pre-knowledge will help avoid losing the UN in the future, and leave it to roam aimlessly in the wilderness.