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:

"With respect to a red line, I can't go into the details here, but I tell you there's a red line, and people know what it is. The people who need to know, know what it is."

If anyone asked who the "people who need to know" might be, it was not reported in the Arab press.

What no one wants is for the Syrian rebellion to spill over into an all out war which would involve Turkey (which shares a 510 mile border with Syria) and/or Iran and/or Israel.

Israel is concerned that an uncontrolled collapse of the al-Assad regime might lead to those stockpiles of chemical weapons, as the NY Times reported, "falling into the hands of rogue groups equally opposed to Israel."

Adding to the complexity of the situation, Turkey, this week, began military training exercises along the Syrian border in areas said to be controlled by Kurds (who want an autonomous state for their people both in Syria and in Iraq).

It was reported yesterday morning that President Obama had signed a "secret order" supporting the Syrian rebels. According to Reuters news agency, the President signed "an intelligence 'finding,' that broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad."

As Fred Thompson said in his role as Adm. Josh Painter in "The Hunt for Red October:" "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

Syria is becoming very serious, indeed.


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 Mullings.com.