1 APRIL 2014


Mokhtar Lamani was Lakhdar Brahimi's practical alter ego on the ground. Over the last two years, he was the main field operator while the Special Envoy was skillfully exploring options for a political settlement. As always, both worked very well together. Since Lamani headed the Islamic Conference delegation and Brahimi assisted Secretaries-General Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan, the Moroccan and Algerian experienced diplomats had a shared, unflinching commitment to the interests of their region and principles of the U.N.

As if by mutual understanding, Mokhtar Lamani and Lakhdar Brahimi moved in tandem over the Syrian crisis, with the suffering of the Syrian people and the future of Syria as a main concern. While the Special Envoy argued, negotiated -- almost threatened, cautioned, briefed and turned on and off his charm, his colleague on the ground did the same with conflicting forces -- the Syrian authorities, armed and unarmed protesters, subsidized foreign thugs, local militias from every angle, and anyone within sight or sound to get some -- any -- progress.

Geneva II was a disappointment. Both Syrian sides behaved cynically, awaiting action on the ground. Well, action on the ground continued. Syrian authorities and their allies are making steady progress, but there are still several areas of armed rebellion and there are still sub-regional (and big powers) involved in varied open or vague extents. While the U.N. Security Council started re-discussing the Syrian situation, (unprecedented 9 million people displaced, 140,000 killed), on 24 March, any possible international agreement is unlikely, particularly with another crisis expanding in the Ukraine.

Lakhdar Brahimi deserves admiration for his persistent, experienced and dedicated efforts, despite pressure (and unfair sniping) from all sides. Until now, he has rightly decided to exercise his good offices and maintain an unflappable attitude, although he is known to burst angrily in closed meetings while smiling graciously at open ones. Yet his other colleague -- operating on the ground -- decided to resign.

Mokhtar Lamani had resigned an earlier post as Arab League Envoy to Iraq when he felt he was unable to accomplish practical progress. He has now done the same regarding neighbouring Syria. He tried his best and would not take any more. A decent and accomplished mediator who already helped a number of abandoned groups and saved many lives in encircled cities like Hama, Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. Now that he is graciously leaving with his stature and honour intact, the least he deserves from the international community is an expression of thanks.