Inside Syria

Searching for a ‘plan B’ in Syria

As the violence in the country continues despite the ceasefire, how can the international community end the crisis?

Ban Ki-moon, the UN general-secretary, has promised to try and speed up the deployment of up to 300 UN monitors to Syria. So far, just 15 monitors are in the country but that number is expected to rise to 100 within the next month.

I don’t think this is going to result in any sort of intervention … the international community is benefiting from the slow decline of Syria so the US and Europe will ultimately down the line force it to come to some sort of negotiations on Israel. A weaker Syria helps the Americans in their battle against Iran. So I really don’t see an actual urgency in intervening.

– Sami Hermez, a legal and political anthropology professor 

But as the violence in the country continues, many people are questioning whether these observers can make any difference.

More than two weeks into the supposed ceasefire brokered by special UN envoy Kofi Annan more deaths are being reported daily. On Friday, 14 people were reported killed in Damascus, ten of those were civilians.

Speaking in New Delhi, India’s capital, Ban described the Syrian people’s suffering as intolerable and he urged an end to the violence.

In the West, some officials have been talking about other measures that could be used against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Kathleen Hicks, the US defence deputy undersecretary, said Kofi Annan’s diplomatic initiative was “failing” and that the US has been working on a ‘plan B’ to put an end to the violence.

Describing the possibility of a humanitarian corridor along the border between Syria and Turkey, she said: “We are planning various strategies for a vast range of scenarios, including the possibility of helping allies and partners on the frontier zones.”

Allain Juppe, France’s foreign minister, has also talked about alternative plans to deal with the Syria crisis. Juppe described Kofi Annan’s scheduled May 5 report on the state of the ceasefire as “a moment of truth.”

There is still a lot of mystery and speculation about this ship. We don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going. Why should we believe the story of the regime that this shipment of weapons is going to the rebels, why don’t we say that it is actually going to support the shabiha (thugs) of the Assad regime … there are no independent investigations in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is supporting the regime and they will emphasise his story.

– Farah Atassi, a Syrian political activist 

He said if mediation is not working “we will have to move to another step that we have already started to talk about with our partners, under chapter seven of the United Nations charter to move forward for the end of this tragedy which continues in Syria.”

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, spoke out on the international community’s attitude towards Syria as well as Russia and China.

Soon after his statement, the Lebanese navy intercepted a ship loaded with three containers of weapons reportedly destined for Syrian opposition forces.

Inside Syria, with presenter Teymoor Nabili, speaks to guests: Jonathan Paris, a Middle East analyst, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and also a senior advisor with the Chertoff Group; Farah Atassi, a Syrian political activist and president of the Syrian National Bloc, an opposition group; and Sami Hermez, a visiting professor specialising in in legal and political anthropology, at Mount Holyoke College, Northampton.

“The ceasefire, announced on the basis of Kofi Annan’s plan and supported by the UN Security Council, is not being stable yet, mostly because the armed opposition groups are trying to stage provocations, explosions, terror attacks and shootings, all need to work honestly … and all who have influence on Syrian forces, both on the government and the opposition, must use their influence for good purpose.”

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister



  • Violence continues despite the ceasefire and despite UN monitors being on the ground
  • Activists report large protests all over Syria
  • The ceasefire should have come into effect on April 12
  • Currently 15 observers are in Syria monitoring the ceasefire
  • 15 more UN monitors are expected to arrive in Syria by Monday
  • A ‘suicide’ bomber killed 9 and injured dozens on Friday
  • Victims of Friday’s attack included seven police officers
  • The bomb detonated near the Zein al-Abideen mosque in Damascus
  • Regular protests are held outside the Zein al-Abideen mosque on Fridays
  • Doubts have been growing in the US about Annan’s peace plan
  • French FM: We will ask for chapter 7 resolution if ceasefire fails
  • The chapter 7 resolution allows action backed by force
  • Western powers intend to push for arms embargo and sanctions
  • Russia and China intend to veto military action or UN sanctions