A mediator is supposed to bring the parties together, to help them understand each others position, find common points and achieve compromises. From that point of view Annan has not only failed but actively betrayed his mission and his plan.
Annan has not organized a single talk between representatives of the government and the opposition. Instead he holds talks with the government and then tries to deceive us into thinking that that can substitute for talks between the opposition and the government. But that way they will never learn understand each other's position and they are physically incapable of reaching compromises.
By calling for sanctions against Syria Annan has shown his true colors. He is not a mediator. He is a stooge for the US trying to achieve regime change. His appointment was a similar US diplomatic deceit as the Libya resolution that was abused to start a war.
This US position doesn't make sense. The idea is that the removal of Assad will weaken Iran and that that will be to the advantage of the US. But Syria is no asset for Iran and there are better ways to achieve change in Iran. In fact the whole story is just typical neo-con nonsense. The neo-cons thrive - just as Europe's right extremists - on feelings of hatred. One can be sure that when they achieved all their present goals they would immediately think up new enemies that should be eliminated.
A real mediator would do the following:
- Openly pressure all international governments to openly support negotiations – with no preconditions
- Openly pressure the Syrian government and opposition to negotiations.
- Be clear how deadly and devastating the conflict will become if it is fought till the bitter end. Discard illusions about the regime breaking down: it is propaganda that wants us to forget the bitter price of fighting till the end.
- Openly support local armistices and give publicity to them.
- Make negotiations not dependent on a truce. It is well known that the truce initially won’t work very well. Parts of the rebels have openly announced not to respect it and many others are only afraid of bad pr if they don’t at least verbally respect it. Only when negotiations turn in real results might this position change. Negotiations are also needed to handle the inevitable violations of the truce.
- Start with talks about common points like peace, less repression, more political freedom and economic monopolies. Take care that negotiations won’t become zero-sum struggles about power.
- Don't wait of the opposition to become united. Find local representatives instead.
- Be aware that negotiating takes time. There will be breakdowns and stagnation and it may take many months. Aim for small gains to keep momentum. A big part of negotiating is trust building and that takes time.
- Openly criticize the satellite television preachers from Saudi Arabia who are polarizing the situation like “we will chop their flesh” Arour and “kill a third of the Syrians” Luhaidan. Put pressure on Saudi Arabia and other countries to get these modern Radio Mille Colines out of the air.
- Remember the opposition and the world that for any government public order is of primary importance. Even in the US with its long democratic tradition things have turned quite ugly when Occupy Wall Street was seen as a threat. Assad's behavior is sometimes extreme, but less so than many would like us to believe.
- Remember everyone that a revolution very probably will bring extremism and hatred. Revolutions have a tendency to get out of hand and in Syria all the precondition for that seem present.