The suggested involvement of Iran in ending Syria's political strife has pitted Russia against the U.S. as a United Nations peace plan unraveled with shots fired at observers of a UN-backed truce, Bloomberg reported.
With his cease-fire agreement in tatters, UN envoy Kofi Annan warned the General Assembly that more needs to be done to prevent Syria from sliding into civil war after two massacres less than two weeks apart.
He joined Russia in wanting Iran, as a country with influence in Syria, to assist efforts to seek a possible successor to President Bashar al-Assad.
"I think Iran as an important country in the region, I hope would be part of the solution," Annan told reporters in New York yesterday. Discussions on which countries belong in a broader coalition to engineer Assad's ouster, he said, are at a "fairly early stage."
The Russian-led drive to enlist Shiite Muslim Iran to help devise an end to more than four decades of minority Alawite rule will put President Vladimir Putin on a collision course with U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet at an economic summit in Mexico later this month.
"I think Iran is part of the problem," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters yesterday after a day of briefings on Syria. "There is no question that it is actively engaged in supporting the government in perpetuating violence on the ground."
Rice added that the Islamic Republic "has not demonstrated to date a readiness to contribute constructively to a peaceful political solution".
Powerless to stem the violence in a 15-month conflict that has killed more than 10,000 Syrians, the international community remains reluctant to use force in Syria. Russia frequently cites the NATO military intervention in Libya as an example of the UN abusing its powers to bring about a change of regime.
In Libya, there was a more cohesive opposition that held territory and was available for dialogue with foreign powers. Syria's exiled political opponents have little contact with armed insurgents who are adopting guerrilla tactics.
"If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war," Annan told the world body yesterday in New York.
Human rights advocates in the State Department and elsewhere argue that the U.S. should intervene to halt the growing violence against civilians in Syria and head off a sectarian civil war.
Some military officials, meanwhile, argue that the administration should be preparing for possible military intervention to secure Syria's large stocks of antiaircraft missiles, chemical and biological agents, and other weapons.
Otherwise, these officials argue, the arms could fall into the hands of Sunni Islamic militants or be given to the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah by Syrian officials or Iranian agents.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, expressed some frustration at a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.
"I have to know what the outcome is," he said. "So you tell me what the outcome is, I can build you a plan to achieve that outcome. I can't build that plan unless I understand the outcome."
Edited by: S. Isayev