Christopher Lee writes from London: Kofi Annan has resigned as chief Syria peace hunter. He was going anyway at the end of the month but his early announcement simply tells everyone that the whole peace effort was never going to succeed.
Mr Annan was always going to fail because his plan had the hallmarks of being drafted by a Franciscan Friar who believed in fairy tales.
His document saying that it would be best for everyone if Mr al Assad just stepped down was the sort of naive idea you expect from an innocent. Yet this was a man who for a decade was paid a pretty good $270,000 a year, plus allowances of much more than that, plus accommodation plus a pension that would feed Africa and achieved the square root of nothing.
He was also the man who suggested that if the nice Mr al Assad stepped down, then as a reward we would all overlook the war crimes thing. How could anyone, associated with the terrible, the horrendous suffering be allowed to escape that hook?
It was done in the name of diplomacy. Anyone who knew anything about the situation could have told him it was not going to work and it was outrageous that such an offer would be made in the first place.
But let us look at another reason for Annan’s utter failure (apart from the fact that he was on a hiding to nothing). The Syrian opposition groups are such a blood-thirsty, untrustworthy and unconnected group of militias and ex-pats that there was no way they would honour any agreement. So failure wasn’t all due to the unspeakable al Assad family.
The third element to Annan’s failure is that he concentrated on Bashar al Assad when that al Assad is not in charge. He is but a figurehead who should have stayed in the eye business in London.
The man in charge of the family business of killing and pillage is the brother, Maher. So all in all, a mighty cock-up by the former UN Secretary General. Why would he have stood no chance of succeeding (apart from the obvious as outlined above)? He failed because in spite of his Uncle Tom appearance and brilliantly well-cut suits, Mr Annan is just like his predecessors: a low grade shoo-in diplomat.
Mr Annan is one of the UN nice guys. In fact they are all nice guys. In fact they are all dead beats. Tell me a UN leader who has succeeded? We wanted them to. They wanted to. We knew they would not. They knew they would not.
Doesn’t matter how far you go back, not one UN secretary general has been anything but rubbish. Even in the recent past with big world-crushing crises, not one of them has impressed.
Kofi Annan’s predecessor, the enormously likable Egyptian, Boutros Boutros Ghali, who was the sixth Secretary General, was an Egyptian and so the first Arab and the first Egyptian to hold that office. He had all the advantages and none of the authority or cleverness the world needed. He was there at the time of the break up of Yugoslavia and the Rwanda crisis. On both, he achieved nothing.
Before Boutros Ghali, Javier Perez de Cuellar tried to bring Britain and Argentina together over the Falkland Island claims of the latter. He had no chance in succeeding and no one expected him to.
That sadly is the way of the Secretary General. The UN is the sum of its roughly two hundred parts. It is run by the five-nation permanent members of the Security Council. Nothing at global political level matters.
So why send Kofi Annan to Syria to be fingered as a failure? Answer: because no one who matters really cares. Let them fight it out. Let the war between rebels and the al Assads be a proxy war against Iran. Let the Russians and Chinese believe it is a war that suits the interests of the western nations. And let the Syrian people fear absolutely nothing. Let them come out onto the streets when the nice Mr Annan is sent in to seek peace. Let them stand around waiting for it – that makes them a much easier target for the snipers on both sides.
Then Mr Annan can go home to his pension.