UN monitors arrive in Syria to gunfire and protests

Rick Moran
Syrians arranged an interesting welcome for an advance team of UN monitors who are supposed to police the "cease fire" that isn't much if a cease fire and make sure that President Assad abides by the agreement negotiated with Kofi Annan.

Good luck with that.

The monitors were visiting Erbid, a suburb of Damascus when they were blitzed by hundreds of anti-Assad protestors angry over the lack of action at the UN. Then gunfire broke out, according to Reuters, and the crowd scattered.

Shooting erupted on Wednesday close to an advance party of military personnel from the United Nations who had been swarmed by protesters denouncing President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Erbin, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus.

There were no reports of casualties. But scenes of monitors' vehicles stuck in a crowd and men running away while gunfire rattled in the air were an ominous echo of an earlier monitoring mission, by the Arab League, which collapsed in January.

The United States said the incident - and sustained shelling by the Syrian army of the city of Homs - raised questions about whether observers could actually monitor any truce and pledged to step up pressure on Assad at a meeting in Paris on Thursday.

No formal agreement has been reached yet on how the new monitors should operate, and Syria challenged U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon over the size and scope of their mission.

Ban said this week that 250 observers were insufficient in a country of 23 million where the United Nations says at least 9,000 people have been killed in the past 13 months. He sought European help in supplying planes and helicopters.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said 250 was a "reasonable number", adding they should be from countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa - all more sympathetic to Damascus than are the West or the Arab League.

He also dismissed any need for U.N. aircraft.

Nothing much has changed since the fake cease fire was declared a week ago. The hot spots of the revolt are still being shelled by Assad's troops, civilians are still dying, although not in the numbers they were before the cease fire. And Assad hasn't made a move to engage the opposition in any kind of dialogue.

The world is in love with half measures and fantasy cease fires which is why the bloodletting is bound to continue indefinitely. Assad is not likely to run out of bullets nor are the protestors likely to run out of people willing to put their lives on the line to get rid of this thug.

It is a recipe for stalemate -- and a bloody one at that.



Syrians arranged an interesting welcome for an advance team of UN monitors who are supposed to police the "cease fire" that isn't much if a cease fire and make sure that President Assad abides by the agreement negotiated with Kofi Annan.

Good luck with that.

The monitors were visiting Erbid, a suburb of Damascus when they were blitzed by hundreds of anti-Assad protestors angry over the lack of action at the UN. Then gunfire broke out, according to Reuters, and the crowd scattered.

Shooting erupted on Wednesday close to an advance party of military personnel from the United Nations who had been swarmed by protesters denouncing President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Erbin, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus.

There were no reports of casualties. But scenes of monitors' vehicles stuck in a crowd and men running away while gunfire rattled in the air were an ominous echo of an earlier monitoring mission, by the Arab League, which collapsed in January.

The United States said the incident - and sustained shelling by the Syrian army of the city of Homs - raised questions about whether observers could actually monitor any truce and pledged to step up pressure on Assad at a meeting in Paris on Thursday.

No formal agreement has been reached yet on how the new monitors should operate, and Syria challenged U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon over the size and scope of their mission.

Ban said this week that 250 observers were insufficient in a country of 23 million where the United Nations says at least 9,000 people have been killed in the past 13 months. He sought European help in supplying planes and helicopters.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said 250 was a "reasonable number", adding they should be from countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa - all more sympathetic to Damascus than are the West or the Arab League.

He also dismissed any need for U.N. aircraft.

Nothing much has changed since the fake cease fire was declared a week ago. The hot spots of the revolt are still being shelled by Assad's troops, civilians are still dying, although not in the numbers they were before the cease fire. And Assad hasn't made a move to engage the opposition in any kind of dialogue.

The world is in love with half measures and fantasy cease fires which is why the bloodletting is bound to continue indefinitely. Assad is not likely to run out of bullets nor are the protestors likely to run out of people willing to put their lives on the line to get rid of this thug.

It is a recipe for stalemate -- and a bloody one at that.