Brahimi, Syria’s Next Hope?
Hearts and Minds
Most recently, the Rebel Free Syrian Army has claimed that it has shot down a military aircraft near the Iraqi border. Though the government has argued that the plane crash was due to technical difficulties, the event, in conjunction with the trends in fighting in Aleppo, suggests that rebel forces in Syria are becoming stronger.
While militarily the rebel army may be gaining ground, the priority for most Syrian civilians remains establishing peace in the country. It is unlikely that despite recent advances the rebels will be able to overtake the military, rendering peace elusive for the time being.
Making matters worse, last week, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that he was unable to fulfill his position as envoy for the UN-Arab League in the country. Citing conflicting interests among the members of the Security Council as well as broken promises by both rebels and the Syrian government, Mr. Annan made it clear that the peace-plan he had created for Syria would remain ineffective unless conditions changed drastically.
Mr. Annan’s resignation raised concerns over whether Syria’s chance at peace and stability are decreasing, or at least that the international community is unable to play a meaningful role in promoting peace for the time being. However, it is expected that the UN and the Arab League will announce Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as his replacement.
Indeed, replacing Mr. Annan will be no small feat. However, Lakhdar Brahimi has extensive diplomatic experience and he has promoted peace efforts in a number of war-torn areas for years.
Mr. Brahimi, who is 78, was a senior Arab League official between 1984-1991 during which he brokered the end to the Lebanese civil war. He went on to serve in Algeria’s foreign service between 1991 and 1998.
Importantly, Mr. Brahimi was appointed as the UN’s envoy for Afghanistan between 1996 and 1998 as well as between 2001 and 2004. No stranger to challenging diplomatic circumstances, he also held similar roles in Haiti and South Africa.
Mr. Brahimi is certainly not lacking in experience. His understanding of the complex dynamics of international peace keeping, and the politics that come alongside it, will be especially useful if he is to replace Mr. Annan. However, as Mr. Annan has clearly indicated, the success of the UN-Arab League envoy lies more in the hands of the international community and the warring parties. Whether Mr. Brahimi is successful will depend on how the international community as well as the forces at play in Syria read the current turn of events in the ground.