Rich Galen

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, abruptly resigned as the special peace envoy to Syria.

Abrupt is the correct word, because Annan's brief only extended until the end of this month. The current UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said he would try to find a replacement for Annan to complete the term of the "mandate."

Annan said, in his statement of resignation:

"At a time when we need - when the Syrian people desperately need action - there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council."

What began as a series of more-or-less peaceful demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad has escalated to the point where the demonstrators have become rebels and the demonstrations have become a full-blown civil war involving tanks and heavy weapons on both sides.

Bashar's predecessor as Syrian president was his father who died in 2000. Upon his death, Bashar ran for President and received 97.2% of the votes. He was re-elected in 2007 with 97.6% of the votes cast.

Bashar al-Assad is a physician who trained as an ophthalmologist in London. Another gold star for the National Health.

In 2004, the commanding U.S. General in Iraq, George W. Casey Jr., accused al-Assad's government of lending support to former senior members of the Iraqi Ba'ath party who had escaped to Syria and were then leading insurgency in Iraq.

According to a Washington Post piece by reporter Tom Ricks, Casey said the former henchmen of Saddam Hussein were:

"Operating out of Syria with impunity and providing direction and financing for the insurgency."

This was not new territory for Bashar. After the death of his older brother in a car accident, Bashar became involved in regional politics, taking over the administration of Syria's occupation of Lebanon and installing allies in high government posts and allowing Iranian arms and trainers to move in and out with alacrity.

The current situation has escalated to the point where even Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma), who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was quoted in the Arab News of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as saying:

"What is clear is that we cannot appear to be feckless, or impotent, or ineffective, in the face of this kind of use of force by anybody against their own people with the implications that it has for the region itself."

Amid calls for a "red line" to be established, especially with regard to al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his people, Kerry said:

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at