Apparently neither UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon or Kofi Annan, head of the UN envoy to Syria, are ready to give up on the plan, despite not yet achieving even its first goal of a cease-fire. The plan originally called for a complete cease-fire to be implemented last Thursday, however, violence has shown no signs of abating.
Yet today the UN Secretary General appeared optimistic about the Annan Plan when he announced that an agreement had been reached with Syrian officials to allow an increased number of UN observers to monitor the cease-fire. Despite Mr. Ban's hope, today's agreement is little more than a thinly veiled attempt by the Syrian government to appear cooperative without actually making any real concessions.
To be successful, Mr. Ban claimed, there must be a significant number of observers who have freedom of transport and unlimited access to Syrian cities. However, none of these qualifications were met by today's agreement. Instead of the 300 observers requested, the New York Times reports that Syrian officials are only willing to let in a maximum of 250 and even these must be from "neutral" countries. The countries listed were Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, two of which are at best only neutral in their unconditional support of the Assad regime.
The agreement also appears to deny both freedom of transport and unlimited access. Mr. Ban claims that helicopters are necessary to transport observers in and out of dangerous areas, however, he admits that today's agreement fails to address the issue of air transport. Likewise, observers have previously been denied access to such major cities of violence as Homs, and the new agreement does not guarantee that observers will be able to get in any time soon.
Perhaps instead of letting the Syrian government delay until it has broken the opposition completely, more hardline approaches from groups such as the Friends of Syria coalition should be taken seriously. While their push for tough UN sanctions against Syria would likely be vetoed by a Russia which remains "neutral," it is clear that Syria currently views the UN as toothless and soft pressure which only asks for minor concessions (you can stay just stop killing thousands of your own people) will not work.