Kofi Annan has resigned yesterday as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, officially burying his still-born six-point peace plan. Annan managed to enforce a brief ceasefire in April, but fighting between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels from the Free Syrian Army soon resumed and has since escalated into a full-blown civil war.
Annan's resignation marks the end of any pretence of the UN Security council dealing with the Syrian crisis as an "international community". The plan failed partly because of deep disagreements between Russia, who supports the Syrian regime, and Western governments who want Assad to resign, both for their own strategic calculations.
But Annan's faltering peace efforts at least provided a smoke screen to which all outside powers could pay lip-service to. Russia was able to flaunt its supposed commitment to a peaceful resolution, although Moscow undoubtedly knew that Assad botched his crisis management to the point where he could only go down fighting.
And the West, itching to knock down Iran's last remaining Arab ally but all too aware of the costs of military intervention in Syria, could point the finger at Assad while continuing to aid the rebels in the FSA.
At least the cards are now on the table. Media reports reveal that President Obama already signed a secret order to support Syrian rebels, and it is only a matter of time when the FSA will get hold of more sophisticated weapons to target Assad's helicopters and tanks. For most part, the job of supplying the rebels will probably be outsourced to Assad's regional enemies, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia (read Reuters' exclusive report on Turkish intelligence activites on border with Syria).
I guess this puts the ball in Moscow's court. Will Russia raise the stakes by upgrading the supply of weapons it is still delivering to Syria and urge Assad to unleash one last attempt at a Chechnya-style military solution? Or will Russia fold its cards, and focus on retaining a measure of influence in the post-Assad Syria?
See also: Current Situation in Syria
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