Mallat in Daily Star: Coddling dictators is Annan’s bad habit



The recent massacres in Qubair and Houla should clarify the obvious about Kofi Annan and his plan for Syria. Not only has the United Nations-Arab League envoy failed in his mission, which should persuade him to exit the stage, the three-month delay occasioned by his project has destroyed much of what Syria’s peaceful revolution managed to achieve. More fundamentally, this outcome only underlines the need for the U.N. to stop seeking out compromises with dictators.

Pusillanimity began early in Annan’s career. The man emerged from obscurity thanks to his silence on the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. At the time he was the director of U.N. peacekeeping operations, and effectively allowed the killing of the Tutsis to proceed unimpeded, despite the warnings of General Romeo Dallaire and others on the ground, and an explicit fax by Dallaire that Annan suppressed.

In 1998, as U.N. secretary-general, Annan saved Saddam Hussein from isolation and impending punishment for the Iraqi leader’s sustained breaches of international law. This left the day of reckoning to the costlier U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Meanwhile, Annan continued to deal with Saddam over the flawed oil-for-food program. An Annan appointee, Benon Sevan, as well as his own son Kojo, were accused by the Volcker enquiry of having abused the program for personal gain.

Annan also undermined a resolution of the Cyprus crisis by pulling the rug out from under a carefully calibrated European Union policy. The EU had developed a scheme under which only a unified Cyprus could join the union. Yet Annan’s approach ended up permitting EU membership for the Greek half Cyprus, which had rejected the secretary-general’s plan, while Turkish Cyprus, which had supported his plan, was left out of the European Union.

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