Even the most incurable pessimist might have been surprised by how quickly and completely the Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria has unravelled. Just as a ceasefire was supposed to come into effect, the killing has dramatically escalated. Today was planned to be the day when Syrian troops and tanks would leave major cities, in preparation for a total ceasefire from 0600 Thursday onwards.
What has happened? The army is reported to have bombarded Homs and Hama, killing some 11 people in the last few hours. And yesterday saw one of the most serious incidents of the entire conflict, when Syrian troops fired across the border into Turkey for the first time, wounding refugees inside a camp located near the frontier.
All this carries an unmistakable message: President Bashar al-Assad’s word is clearly worth nothing. He officially accepted the Annan plan a fortnight ago, but the idea of actually keeping his promise does not seem to have occurred to him. Instead, Syria’s regime scents a decisive victory against its armed opponents and the army wants to press home its attack. Any claims about a willingness to accept a ceasefire or negotiations are clearly just gambits to avoid international pressure for another day.