MARCH 1, 2018


More countries are increasingly involved in Syrian territory while the U.N.'s practical role seems short-sighted, almost pretentious, while substantially irrelevant.

Anyone with minimum U.N. institutional memory knows that Staffan De Mistura was not professionally qualified to handle such a crisis. His main talent is using soft spots of senior officials to gain senior appointments. He employed a Chef de Cabinet's aspiring son when getting a promotion from D-2 in Rome to Assistant-Secretary-General as Envoy to Lebanon. He employed Ban Ki-moon's son-in-law to get an Under-Secretary-General posting as Envoy to Iraq, to which he rarely visited; he was almost kicked out as the most senior Shiite cleric refused to receive him for being irrelevant to the actual issues. He rarely visited Syria over the last three years while holding media conferences, preparing further meetings and Security Council briefings, all while dressed in fashionable attire, eyeglasses sliding down his nose for effect. The former UNICEF Greeting Cards Meeter/Greeter -- and his mentors -- do not seem to realize that it takes much more than that to deal with crucial issues of human survival.

Freezing Syrian migrants were buried near their Lebanese mountain borders while more countries were getting involved in a widening conflict over their national territory.

Initially, there were ISIS foreign fighters from Uzbekistan and Chechnya subsidized by Qatari, Saudi, and other Gulf funds. Turkey was a crossing point; its Security Chief was more known in the region than most heads of state. After the split between Riyadh and Doha, and realization by "Sultan" Erdogan that his foreign protégés were turning against him, there were more open interventions. Iran, and Lebanon's Hezbollah supporting Bashar Assad's regime, were overtaken by big power military politics. Russian-extended military involvement, backed by a base in Khmeimim, visited by President Putin, eventually drew U.S. military involvement, through "experts" and "advisors," ostensibly to fight ISIS.

Now that the Islamic fighters faded away -- as curiously as they were created (by whom?!) -- more U.S. military became involved. Despite liaison arrangements between Moscow and Washington, D.C., delicate lines in oil refinery locations like Rikka and Deir Ezzor are treated cautiously and crisscrossed occasionally. Kurdish troops are under U.S. auspices while U.S.'s traditional ally Turkey treats them as terrorists. Clashes between whom and where are drawing more questions about who is really in charge where. Saudi Arabia is re-activating its role. Jordan's monarch is trying to cope between his neighboring Syrian regime, his edgy relations with Riyadh, his close links to the UA Emirates where former Blackwater military contractor is available for business. Israel, which for a while observed its Golan border area, cautiously got more involved, as Iranian drones, Israeli planes and Syrian government artillery were engaged. Turkish troops entered Afrin initially to counter Kurdish troops, then threatened to extend its reach further into Syrian territory "to protect its own security." U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis, former Commander of forces in that region, could hardly contain his interest after an extensive visit.

Formerly optimistic preparations for a political settlement, via Sochi, Geneva, or Vienna, are by now overtaken by expanded clashes on the ground. Although the Syrian government forces control most of the national territory, with the exception of the Idlib region, it is now facing new conflicts and renewed challenges.

Where is the U.N. and what is its role in all this?

Failed U.N. Envoy Steffan De Mistura, former Meeter Greeter for UNICEF Greeting Cards, found his way three years ago, like he often did, with individuals of influence -- to get appointed to what experienced negotiators like Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan considered to be an extremely complex issue. He similarly draws on connections with certain governments. An Italian Swede/Swedish Italian -- as the situation may require -- he would obviously bank on their Security Council membership for continued political cover despite catastrophic conditions. Elegantly dressed, eyeglasses slipped carefully down his nose, De Mess is always keen on briefing the media while calling for one more meeting to discuss holding another one at an appropriate time and place.

Again, while Syrians are freezing to death, and clashes between outside warring parties are heating up, the "U.N. Envoy" is warming himself for futile role.

If all that failure does not keep Secretary-General Antonio Guterres awake at night, he will eventually get an unpleasant wake-up call.