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Author: U.S. averting gaze from Syria slaughter

updated 12:30 PM EDT, Thu April 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fouad Ajami is an expert at Stanford and author of the upcoming "The Syrian Rebellion"
  • He believes the peace plan in Syria is only helping the al-Assad regime
  • Ajami says the U.S. bears a moral responsibility for what happens there

(CNN) -- For 13 months, violence has raged in Syria between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the opposition in a lopsided battle that has seen thousands killed amid a number of international attempts to broker a peace deal.

The latest reports of violence follow news that more U.N. observers are arriving in Syria. The U.N. Security Council recently authorized sending up to 300 monitors to Syria for 90 days. They are tasked with observing a cease-fire that was supposed to have begun April 12.

They're also charged with monitoring the implementation of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which calls for the government and the opposition to end the bloodshed, provide access to the population for humanitarian groups, release detainees, and start a political dialogue.

But why is the violence continuing, and what chance does a peace plan have in Syria? CNN's John King spoke with Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and author of the soon-to-be released book "The Syrian Rebellion." Here's an edited version of their conversation:

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JOHN KING: Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, filed a report essentially with the U.N. Security Council Monday that says, guess what, Syria is still violating the cease-fire, still breaking its rules. As soon as the monitors leave town, (security forces are) going in and killing people. And Annan says he's "going to lodge his objections," meet with the Syrian people "at an appropriate time." Do you see any urgency, or is it -- as you wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" -- you view this Annan mission as essentially cover for al-Assad?

FOUAD AJAMI: Well over 1,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Kofi Annan mission. The Kofi Annan mission -- to be blunt about it -- is really a lifeline to the Bashar regime.

And you know, people in (there), people in distress, they know things very clearly and state it very clearly. One city stuck a note on one of the land cruisers of the observers and said the following: "The butcher kills, the observers observe, and the people go on with the revolution." There is nothing new in that Syrian nightmare.

KING: I know the U.S. ambassador to United Nations, Susan Rice, is quite frustrated. She had said that Russia and China have blood on the hands because they won't accept a tougher proposal. But the United States is among those who have backed this Kofi Annan mission. When you hear the reports of further crimes against the (protesters) and then you say, we'll be touch with them at the appropriate time; at what point does the United States for its own credibility need to walk away from that process?

AJAMI: We bear our own moral responsibility. And we know, for example, that we can say unequivocally that Russia and China are responsible. We can say that they aid and abet the Bashar al-Assad regime. But what about American culpability?

We went to the United Nations when anyone would have told you that the Russians and Chinese were going to veto any resolution that would aid the Syrian people. So at some point in time ... we have to accept our own responsibility. We can't say such terms as "the violence in Syria is unacceptable." We are accepting it. It goes on day after day. And the United States itself is doing nothing about it.

KING: Do you see any evidence that there's a change of heart, or is this going to go on and is the killing going to continue while the world talks, but does nothing?

AJAMI: Well, I think there's one beat that you know very well, more than the rest of us, I believe. You observe and understand the game in Washington very, very well.

Nothing will happen: That's my own prediction, my own fear, my own sense. Nothing is going to happen before the November election in 2012, before the bid of President Obama for a second term. I spent some time in Turkey. I spent some time in the refugee camps in Turkey, and even just simple people, simple people, unschooled, unlettered, they will tell you, no cavalry is coming to the rescue, and that Washington has pretty much looked away and averted its gaze from this terrible slaughter. And everyone, the Arabs, the Turks, are waiting on the Obama administration, and the rain of mercy has not come.

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