Damascus blasts force Syria ever closer to war

By Serene Assir ,AFP

BEIRUT — The recent escalation of violence in Syria, including twin bombings on Thursday that killed scores, has pushed the country closer to war and could spell an end to a U.N. cease-fire mission, experts say. “The country is in a civil war vortex, and all this is happening while the international community is not living up to its responsibilities,” said Khattar Abu Diab, professor of international relations at Paris Sud University.

Though the Damascus bombings were the deadliest since an anti-regime uprising began in March last year, analysts said the imminent failure of a U.N.-backed peace plan was already clear. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has failed to implement a six-point plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, said Abu Diab. “The cease-fire has not been respected, people have not been allowed to protest freely and peacefully, and the political prisoners have not been freed,” said the analyst. The putative truce technically came into effect on April 12, but hundreds of people on both sides have died since then, and the U.N. and rights groups have accused both the regime and rebels of violating it. Earlier this week, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon warned the government and opposition that there was only a “brief window” to avoid “a full-scale civil war.” But with no clear alternative to the peace plan in sight, “we stand before a dead end,” Abu Diab noted Some say the U.N. mission may have already failed. “The West is supporting a mission that it doesn’t believe in,” said Peter Harling, an expert on Syria with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, told AFP. “The Annan mission is born out of the international community’s ambivalence,” he added. At the same time, escalating violence may have regional repercussions amid outside calls to support armed groups on the ground. “Such actions contravene the spirit of the Annan plan,” he added. As Thursday’s blasts seemed to prove, violence has already escalated to the degree that “it’s unclear what action the U.N. can take at this stage,” he said. To date, only some 70 of a planned 300 observers have been deployed to oversee the truce. Syria’s neighbor and former ally Turkey has even suggested that 3,000 are needed. Beyond the explosions, Harling said Syria is witnessing “a diversification of forms of violence.” Among the striking developments was an escalation of armed clashes in the capital Damascus, he said, and targeted assassinations.