The UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has succeeded in achieving only one thing: arousing anger in most Syrians.
He started his mission four months ago with a disappointing plan based on a ceasefire in Aleppo. But he is yet to accomplish anything. Although he focused his ambitions on a cessation of hostilities in only two neighborhoods in Aleppo, the proposal didn’t gain a significant response. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad agreed on the ceasefire in just one neighborhood, because he has no authority there. Meanwhile, the armed opposition didn’t concern itself with de Mistura’s plans.
De Mistura’s mission was more like a smokescreen: he left the international coalition to fight on behalf of the regime in areas occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and disregarded the daily systematic attacks perpetrated by Assad’s forces in civilian areas. The goal of Syria’s embattled president was and still is to expand the scope of the tragedy in order to force millions of Syrians to busy themselves with searching for food and shelter day after day.
Mistura’s four months were wasted—Syrians only saw him smiling with Assad, who has killed more than a quarter of a million people so far. Just like his predecessors, the UN envoy has just filled the diplomatic void. He has done what it takes to distract the various forces and the 20 million Syrians, who are mostly living without housing or basic needs.
What does the international envoy want to achieve if he fulfills his plan to stop fighting in the two Aleppo neighborhoods for a whole six weeks? Perhaps providing food supplies? This was previously done through a rescue mission, without it being considered a political solution. Of course, de Mistura can throw the ball in our court now and ask: “What else can I do when I have neither the power nor the authorization to impose international sanctions?”
We know that de Mistura’s authority does not outdo that of Angelina Jolie’s, who is visiting the region in highly respected humanitarian missions. We know that he cannot do anything so dramatic as to do what the majority want and get rid of Assad and his regime. Nevertheless, he is expected to at least start from where the Geneva Conference ended, which stipulates the establishment of a new government formed using the remnants of Assad’s regime but without the Syrian president himself, in addition to the opposition forces and representatives of all Syrian society, including Alawites. To a certain extent, this is close to what some of the regime’s allies, such as the Russians, have been saying over and over for a while now: that they are not going to cling to Assad if an acceptable solution is found.
Forging ahead with an acceptable solution is going to be a difficult equation for de Mistura. He might be able to find an equation that can convince the parties to make concessions and gradually narrow the distances between them. But his mission has as time has gone on become more like swimming in the ocean: he spent four months in order to try to achieve a ceasefire in one or two neighborhoods in one city in a country that is being burnt and destroyed every day. I think his plan caused the dispersal of previous ideas and assured Assad and his regime, which were afraid of the international intervention under the pretext of fighting ISIS.
The envoy and his mission prevented the exertion of further pressures on Assad, despite the fact that dozens of countries from around the world have their aircraft and troops wandering all over Syria. What de Mistura did was just grant Assad and his men the confidence that they can continue killing more than tens of thousands of civilians, and destroying cities with barrel bombs, rockets and mercenaries from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq.
What stirred the doubts of the Syrians in the envoy’s mission is that he launched it by saying that the future plan would be a regime approved by Assad. Practically, de Mistura’s misguided efforts have nullified all the huge international overtures carefully deployed previously and the Geneva peace accords. He lined up alongside Iran. His actions show that he is more like Walid Al-Mouallem or Faisal Mekdad; just another employee at the Syrian foreign ministry. We kept silent on his actions for four months, hoping that he would find a solution, but the situation has worsened further, tarnishing what remains of any respect countries in the region have toward the United Nations.
Due to the volume of public anger surrounding his post, maybe it would be better for de Mistura to pack his bags and just leave the region.