A Ceasefire in Syria That No One Believes but Everyone Still Believes In

A Ceasefire in Syria That No One Believes but Everyone Still Believes In

The ceasefire in Syria is now a fiction, as the regime's military forces continue to pound opposition, but the U.N. and Western nations don't want to admit as much because the talks it's supposed to engender are still seen as the least worst option. Though there had been reports of the regime's violence almost as soon as the U.N.'s six-point peace plan went into effect on April 12, by Wednesday morning, news wires no longer had to depend on claims by Syrian activists that President Bashar al-Assad was flagrantly breaching its terms. "Wednesday, regime forces fired mortar shells at the central city of Homs, sending thick gray smoke into the air as loud booms rang across residential areas," reports the AP's Karin Laub. "Shelling by Syrian military troops continues unabated," reports NPR's Kelly McEvers. Outside of Homs, the BBC reports evidence of deadly fighting in Deraa province. So why not declare the ceasefire dead? Because once you do, your options don't look good.

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The first reason for not giving up is that everyone wants to see the second phase of U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's plan go through: The part where fighting ends and political talks between Assad and the opposition begin. So far, Annan's six-point plan is still believed to be the best shot at realizing that goal. "The international community is reluctant to declare the cease-fire dead, in part because it is seen as the only way to end bloodshed triggered by an uprising against President Bashar Assad," the AP reports. But that's not the only reason. 

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Declaring the ceasefire a failure would also require a lot more of the international community. Some of those obligations are either ineffective in the short-term (economic sanctions), risky (arming Assad's opponents) or politically unviable (military intervention). In terms of a large peacekeeping mission, Reuters pegs a number on what kind of resources that might take. "The West has shown no desire to intervene militarily or push for the sort of robust peacekeeping mission that might require 50,000 troops or more," reports Ben Blanchard. And of course, even if that were agreed upon, the use of force would likely be vetoed at the U.N. "Syria's powerful friends on the Security Council, Russia and China, have made clear they would block a U.N. mandate to use force. They are likely to back Damascus as the terms of the mission are thrashed out later this week."

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Finally, the last big reason to keep the faith is that even the rebels themselves, who have been receiving  the brunt of Assad's transgressions, think the U.N. plan holds the best chances for them.  "If the Annan plan fails, what happens?" Abdul-Rahim, head of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, tells the AP. "There will be fighting between armed people and the Syrian army. Everyone loses .... Syria will disintegrate. The Annan plan is the last chance for us."