Syria Violence Renders Observer Force Moot
The officer commanding United Nations monitors in Syria said Thursday his unarmed observers could not resume their mission due to violence in the country reaching "unprecedented levels."
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood of Norway told reporters in Damascus, "the escalation of violence, allow me to say to an unprecedented level, obstructed our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue."
It would be impossible to revive his mission without a ceasefire; The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
Last month, the United Nations said it was suspending the observer mission commanded by Mood due to escalating violence in which monitors were routinely blocked or attacked as they tried to carry out their mandate.
The suspension was seen as a severe blow to months of international efforts to negotiate a peace plan to forestall a descent into civil war, which has now come to pass.
At the time, the United Nations said the monitors would not be withdrawn, but would be locked down in Syria's most contested cities, unable to conduct patrols.
“Whatever decision the Security Council makes, the international community's continued responsibility to the Syrian people is moral as well as political," Mood said, noting his observers were spread "too thin" and were too few in number to be truly effective.
"We cannot and we will not turn our eyes and ears away from your plight, and we'll continue our work to find new paths to political dialogue and peaceful resolution to the crisis," he said.
Earlier this week, a clearly frustrated Mood openly slammed UN diplomats' efforts to broker a political transition in Syria.
"There is this feeling that it's too much talk in nice hotels, in nice meetings and too little action to move forward and stop the violence," Mood told reporters in Damascus.
Meanwhile, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave no indication that he was planning to ease the 16-month-old crackdown on his country's revolt, saying he was committed to continuing "the fight against terrorism."
"The big game targeting Syria is much bigger than we expected," Assad said during an interview on Wednesday. "The aim is to break up Syria or trigger a civil war."
"The fight against terrorism will continue decisively in the face of this. And we will defeat terror," he said, adding, "The overwhelming majority of the people think like me on this subject."
Assad then declared, "Everybody was calculating that I would fall in a small amount of time. They all miscalculated."
The rebel Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups have disavowed terrorism and any relationship with violent jihadists who may be exploiting the chaos in Syria for their own purposes.
Instead, the roughly 30,000 Syrian army defectors who comprise the FSA have mounted a traditional guerilla war targeting Syrian troops and security personnel with deadly ambushes and hit-and-run raids.
Nonetheless, the Syrian opposition has struggled to become a cohesive force and failed to agree upon a united set of goals during two recent days of rancorous meetings in Cairo.
Meanwile, Islamist terror groups unaffiliated with the FSA or Syrian National Council have targeted Assad's regime with a campaign of deadly bombings, leading Assad to dismiss all his opponents as "terrorists."
United Nations rights officials say at least 16,500 people – most of them civilians – have been killed since Syria's popular uprising turned civil war erupted in March 2011.