On 3 May a spokesperson for Kofi Annan, broker of the 12 April Syria peace plan, claimed, “The Annan plan is on track… [although] there are no big signs of compliance on the ground.”
Annan’s six-point plan includes a ceasefire, deployment of observers and free access for journalists and humanitarian aid. The number of UN observer personnel has risen to 70, with 300 expected by the end of May.
But at the same time that Annan’s assistant was speaking to the press, security forces and pro-government thugs were attacking anti-regime protesters at Aleppo university, killing four and detaining 200.
On 4 May at least ten more civilians were killed across Syria. State terror continues in Idlib province, in north west Syria, where the opposition Free Syrian Army has been routed and loyal troops are rounding up “oppositionists” in towns and country villages.
In fact Kofi Annan’s main achievement is to have taken Syria out of western news programmes. The main beneficiary of the ceasefire has been Bashar Assad and his one party state.
On Monday 7 May Assad staged a fake election with the aim of persuading the gullible that he intends real reform. The election was boycotted by the main opposition groups, and the BBC quoted a student in Damascus as saying “the polling stations are empty.”
Although the opposition — in particular the armed opposition — has taken a battering in the last two months it is now inconceivable that simple, brutal repression will work for Assad.
The Free Syrian Army has large organisations in many Syrian towns and, for example, was capable of killing 20 soldiers in a series of attacks on 2 May.
Meanwhile, the economy continues to deteriorate, shrinking by 3.4% in 2011, and forecast to contract by a further 5.9% in 2012.
The Syrian pound has lost half of its value, falling to 100 to the US dollar (compared with 48 when the uprising began). The Central Bank’s reserves have fallen from $22 billion at the beginning of the crisis to about $10 billion today.
The price of rice and eggs has tripled over the past year and cooking oil has doubled. Blackouts hit even middle class neighbourhoods not involved in the struggle for up to 12 hours a day.
The regime is hemmed in by sanctions. The EU’s decision to stop importing Syrian crude oil has so far cost the state $3 billion in revenue.
Muhanad, from the Sunni capitalist class in Aleppo, put the matter quite clearly: “The business class supported President Assad for maintaining the country’s economic, political and social stability. But if these are gone, why should we support a president who wants taxes but offers nothing in return, not even protecting the national currency?”