BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria

1:03 PM PT: Protest in Douma being LiveStreamed Now!

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Kofi Annan is getting himself out of the Syrian peace making game now that he has not seen or heard from Bashar Assad in two weeks and his six point peace plans lays in taters on the floor. Those familiar with this series, especially Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?, know that I have little regards for his efforts with regards to massacres in Syria or in the past. Now from CBS News we have this late bulletin:

Kofi Annan resigning as U.N. envoy to Syria
11:48 a.m. ET

(CBS News) Kofi Annan abruptly announced his resignation as the Arab League and United Nations envoy for the conflict in Syria, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Thursday.

Annan's resignation takes effect Aug. 31, Ban said.

"Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing. The hand extended to turn away from violence in favour of dialogue and diplomacy - as spelled out in (Annan's) Six-Point Plan - has not been not taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria. Both the Government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence," Ban said.

The resignation is a direct consequence of the escalation of the fighting in Syria and the failure of diplomacy in the region, CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk reports. The repeated failures of the United Nations Security Council to take any meaningful action on Syria appear to be a major reason for Anna's decision.

"The persistent divisions within the Security Council have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult," Ban said.

The impact of the Annan resignation is the recognition that diplomacy has failed in Syria. On a personal front, Annan clearly was not going down with the ship - i.e. the failure of his 6-point peace plan - and his resignation was an affirmation of what most diplomats knew, and that is, both the government and the opposition are in a fight to the finish.

Here is a link to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's full statement: New York, 2 August 2012 - Statement by the Secretary-General on the Joint Special Envoy for Syria

The Associated Press is raising some of the same questions I raised yesterday about the whereabouts of Bashar al-Assad:

Where's Assad? Mystery deepens about Syrian leader

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad urged his military Wednesday to boost its fight against rebels, but his written call to arms only deepened a mystery over his whereabouts two weeks after a bomb penetrated his inner circle.

Assad has not spoken publicly since the July 18 bombing killed four of his top security officials — including his brother-in-law — during a rebel assault on the capital, Damascus. The president's low profile has raised questions about whether he fears for his personal safety as the civil war escalates dramatically. More..

From Kofi Annan we have this statement in the Financial Times. I have included the complete statement here in possible violation of copyright because I feel it was wrong of Kofi Annan to release such an important statement through a subscription service:

My departing advice on how to save Syria
August 2, 2012 4:52 pm
By Kofi Annan

Aleppo is under siege and the prospect of the loss of thousands more civilian lives in Syria is very high. The UN has condemned the further descent to civil war but the fighting goes on with no sign of relief for Syrians. Jihadist elements have been drawn into the conflict. There is also high concern for the security of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. The international community has seemed strikingly powerless in its attempts to influence the brutal course of events – but this is by no means inevitable.

While the Security Council is trapped in stalemate, so too is Syria. The government has attempted to suppress, through extreme violence, a popular and widespread movement that, after 40 years of dictatorship, has decided it can no longer be intimidated. The result has been an increasing loss of control on the ground, and the opposition has turned to its own military campaign to fight back. Yet, it remains unclear how the government can be brought down through force alone.

However there is also a political impasse. A mass movement, born in the demand for civil and political rights and the empowerment of voices for change, emerged in Syria after March 2011. But, for all the extraordinary courage that it took for the protesters to march each day in the face of escalating violence by the government, this did not become a movement that bridged Syria’s communal divisions. Opportunities to overcome this were then lost in increasing violence.

Military means alone will not end the crisis. Similarly, a political agenda that is neither inclusive nor comprehensive will fail. The distribution of force and the divisions in Syrian society are such that only a serious negotiated political transition can hope to end the repressive rule of the past and avoid a future descent into a vengeful sectarian war.

For a challenge as great as this, only a united international community can compel both sides to engage in a peaceful political transition. But a political process is difficult, if not impossible, while all sides – within and without Syria – see opportunity to advance their narrow agendas by military means. International division means support for proxy agendas and the fueling of violent competition on the ground.

This is why I have consistently sought to help the international community to work together to end this destructive dynamic and to focus the minds of the parties on the ground into engaging in a political process. Early in my mandate we won international backing for this, with Security Council resolutions, which authorised UN military observers to deploy in Syria. After a ceasefire on April 12, contrary to some claims, the government’s shelling of civilian communities stopped, demonstrating the impact this unity could have.

Sustained international support did not follow, however. The ceasefire quickly unravelled and the government, realising there would be no consequences if it returned to an overt military campaign, reverted to using heavy weapons on towns. In response I sought to re-energise the drive for unity in June by creating the international Action Group for Syria, establishing a framework for a transition to support Syrians’ efforts to move to a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Transition means a managed but full change of government – a change in who leads Syria and how. We left the meeting believing a Security Council resolution endorsing the group’s decision was assured – as the first in a series of measures that would signal a turning point. But since then, there has been no follow-through. Instead, there has been finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council.

There are clear common interests among the regional and international powers in a managed political transition. A conflagration threatens an explosion in the region that could affect the rest of the world. But it takes leadership to compromise to overcome the destructive lure of national rivalries. Joint action requires bilateral and collective efforts by all countries with influence over the actors on the ground in Syria, to press upon the parties that a political solution is essential.

For Russia, China and Iran this means they must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria’s leadership to change course and embrace a political transition, realising the current government has lost all legitimacy. A first move by the government is vital, as its intransigence and refusal to implement the six-point peace plan has been the greatest obstacle to any peaceful political process, ensuring the distrust of the opposition in proposals for a negotiated transition.

For the US, UK, France, Turkey Saudi Arabia and Qatar this means pressing the opposition to embrace a fully inclusive political process – that will include communities and institutions currently associated with the government. This also means recognizing that the future of Syria rises and falls on more than the fate of just one man.

It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office. The greater focus, however, must be on measures and structures to secure a peaceful long-term transition to avoid a chaotic collapse. This is the most serious issue. The international community must shoulder its share of responsibility.

None of this is possible, however, without genuine compromise on all sides. The stalemate means that everyone must shift: the government, opposition, international as well as regional powers. In this way, the international community can unlock an essential condition for a political process – a united international community, effectively and actively supportive of a peaceful transition to legitimate government.

Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity. But this requires courage and leadership, most of all from the permanent members of the Security Council, including from Presidents Putin and Obama. Is ours an international community that will act in defence of the most vulnerable of our world, and make the necessary sacrifices to help? The coming weeks in Syria will tell.

The writer, a former UN secretary-general and a Nobel Peace Laureate, was the joint special envoy of the UN and League of Arab States for Syria. He resigned on Thursday.

EAWorldView has this report on Syria today:

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Aleppo Out of Control?
Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:12 | James Miller

1555 GMT: Syria. Kofi Annan has resigned and Aleppo is still in the headlines, but the most significant news today appears to be what's happening inside Damascus. Widespread violence is rocking parts of the capital, and activists are now reporting that snipers are claiming many lives.

Southern districts of Damascus, like Yalda, Tadamon, Daf shouk, and the areas around the Palestinian refugee camps in Yarmouk (map), have been ravaged by sniper fire. Many have died in the area, according to the Local Coordinating Committees.

Southwest of Darayya, which is southwest of the capital, clashes continue at this hour in Jdaidat Artouz (map), area of a reported "massacre," (see earlier updates), as the Free Syrian Army and the regime military are now battling for control of access to the south of the capital.

These developments could be significant. While the Free Syrian Army has yet to establish a strong foothold inside Damascus, the FSA still has many members in the suburbs. If the FSA can obtain a military foothold in Jdaidet Artouz or Darayya, it will have the ability to launch attacks on the military bases just south of the capital, the real heart of Assad's military stranglehold on Damascus. So far, it's very hard to tell if these developments are militarily significant, so we'll have to monitor closely any developments in this area.

1540 GMT: Syria. The buzz on Twitter is all about the Kofi Annan resignation, but this just about wraps up our take on it:

1504 GMT: Syria. The UN envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, has quit his post, and after August 31st will no longer be the envoy to Syria. A statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced the resignation and thanked Annan for his service, but did not give more details as to the reason for the sudden resignation:

My consultations with the League of Arab States Secretary-General are under way with a view to the prompt appointment of a successor who can carry on this crucial peacemaking effort. I remain convinced that yet more bloodshed is not the answer; each day of it will only make the solution more difficult while bringing deeper suffering to the country and greater peril to the region.

Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing. The hand extended to turn away from violence in favour of dialogue and diplomacy - as spelled out in the Six-Point Plan - has not been not taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria. Both the Government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence. In addition, the persistent divisions within the Security Council have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult.

The UN remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and a Syrian-led solution that meets the legitimate democratic aspirations of its people. This can only succeed – indeed any peacemaking effort can only prosper – when the parties to the violence make a firm commitment to dialogue, and when the international community is strongly united in support.

James Miller, back from vacation, takes over today's live coverage. A major thank you to Scott Lucas for getting us to the afternoon, and for, with the help of EA's other writers, writing the Syria coverage while I was gone.

1257 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA is still not referring to events in Aleppo, although it is promoting "Heavy Losses Inflicted upon Terrorists" in Aleppo Province, with operations in al-Atareb and al-Hajeb killing "terrorists of foreign nationalities".

1124 GMT: Syria. Al Arabiya tells the story of the summary execution of a regime sniper by insurgents near Izaz on the Turkish border.

1050 GMT: Syria. Reuters notes in an overview of four State-owned banks and 14 privately owned institutions, "There is little corporate lending or trade finance, but deposits and withdrawals continue....[They have] largely been cut off from the global financial system by international sanctions against Assad's regime."

1010 GMT: Syria. United Nations agencies, after consultations with the regime, report that up to 3 million people are in need of food, crop and livestock assistance over the coming year. Of that number, "around 1.5 million people need urgent and immediate food assistance over the next 3 to 6 months".

1000 GMT: Syria. Reports since yesterday have indicated that communications in Aleppo have been cut. French consultant Jean Pierre Duthion reports:

Fadi Salem, who was recently in the city:

Activist Rami Jarrah:

Iran's Press TV, which supports the Syrian regime's line, frames the story this way: "Syrian Army Destroys Insurgents' Telecom Systems".

0955 GMT: Syria. Two Turkish journalists, abducted on Wednesday by members of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), have been released.

Cihat Arpacık of Milli Gazete and Kemal Gümüş of Star were covering clashes in and near Aleppo when they were held.

0930 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army fighters inspecting a captured tank in Abu Kamal in the east:

0912 GMT: UAE. Human Rights Watch has called on US and British officials to press the United Arab Emirates to release 50 dissidents detained since March.

Since 16 July, when it declared a plot to undermine the State, the regime has seized 36 Emirati civil society and human rights activists, including two prominent human rights lawyers.

The whereabouts of 38 of the detained men remain unknown.

0828 GMT: Syria. US outlets are claiming that President Obama has signed a secret finding which confirms covert support to insurgents.

A US Government source acknowledged that, under provisions of the finding, Washington was collaborating with Turkish, European, and Arab States in a secret command center inside Turkey on the Syrian border.

The covert US aid of the insurgency, including finance, logistics, and supervision of supplies of weapons, has gradually been revealed this spring.

0818 GMT: Syria. Insurgents have bombarded the Menagh air base that was being used by regime helicopter gunships and other warplanes to attack Aleppo.

An AFP reporter who heard and saw the bombardment, 30 kilometres (about 19 miles) northwest of Syria's largest city (see map).

0813 GMT: Egypt. The Salafist Nour Party has refused any role in the new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, claiming the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) had "failed to fulfil its promises" to the ultra-conservative party.

Leading member Ahmed Khalil said Nour had rejected a proposal by Qandil to appoint Khaled Alim Eddin as Minister of Environment.

The Salafists finished second to the FJP in Parliamentary voting this winter, taking more than 20% of ballots.

On Tuesday, Qandil met with President Mohamed Morsi to review the final list of new Cabinet appointees. They are expected to be sworn into their offices before Morsi on Thursday.

0705 GMT: Syria. Lebanon deported 14 Syrians on Wednesday.

Lebanese authorities said the reasons for the expulsions were not political, but a Human Rights Watch representative in Beirut said, "Fourteen men were deported to Syria today, despite the fact that four of them had asked not to be deported for fear of persecution if handed over to the Syrian authorities."

0655 GMT: Syria. Reuters has detail on one of Wednesday's claimed mass killings (see 0515 and 0625 GMT):

"The tanks and troops left around 4 p.m. When the streets were clear we found the bodies of at least 35 men," a resident, who gave his name as Fares, said by phone from Jdeidet Artouz, southwest of Damascus.

"Almost all of them were executed with bullets to their face, head and neck in homes, gardens and basements," he added....

Syrian state television said "dozens of terrorists and mercenaries surrendered or were killed" when the army raided Jdeidet Artouz and its surrounding farmlands.

"We launched a raid on a farm and we were surprised by the number of armed men who clashed with us --- from up on the roof and from down here," an army officer said from the area, adding his troops had seized bombs, mines, guns and uniforms.

Fares, who did not give his last name for fear of retribution, said soldiers from the Fourth Division, a praetorian guard unit under the command of Assad's brother Maher, came into his house.

"They examined my ID and let me go. They seem to have been looking for activists or young men with a certain profile to execute," he said.

He said the bodies were collected at the Omar bin al-Khattab mosque and buried in a mass grave dug by a bulldozer volunteered by the owner of nearby farmland.

"There are more bodies in al-Sahl area but we could not reach them because there is an army roadblock there," he said.

Another resident of the suburb said the total number of dead was at least 50.

0640 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees have put out a statement declaring, "As more and more areas slip out of the regime’s control in Syria, and as the regime nears its collapse, the need for a national transitional government has become paramount."

At the same time, the Committees criticised "hasty attempts by certain individuals and committees to form this much-needed government....On occasion...these hasty attempts have crossed the line over the values of our great revolution and have insulted the martyrs and sacrifices the Syrian people have made over the last year and a half, in addition to the sacrifices made over the past decades of dictatorship."

0625 GMT: Syria. There is nothing in State news agency SANA this morning about developments in Aleppo.

The site does refer to the Damascus suburbs Jdaidat Artouz and Yalda, both claimed as sites of "massacres" by the Local Coordination Committees on Wednesday (see 0515 GMT):

An Army unit today stormed dens used by armed terrorist groups in Yalda and Babila, Damascus countryside, clashing with their members, killing a number of terrorists and arresting others.

In Jdaidat Artouz, Damascus countryside, a unit from the Syrian Army pursued vanquished armed groups, clashing with them and killing, injuring a number of them.

Scores of the terrorists have surrendered and handed their weapons to the authorities.

0515 GMT: Syria. Almost since the start of the fighting in Aleppo last week, both the regime and the insurgents have claimed control. Yesterday, the head of the Free Syrian Army's Military Council and the spokesman for the insurgents in Aleppo each said that their fighters had taken most of the neighbourhoods, occupying 70% of the territory of Syria's largest city.

However, the real question may be whether anyone has "control". Beyond Wednesday's headlines about the execution of members of a prominent pro-Assad clan by insurgents was the recognition that the Free Syrian Army --- far from being vanquished --- could not only hold out against regime attacks but take the offensive in the battle. At the same time, those killings --- accompanied by the blunt statement of the head of the insurgent Military Council that there will be many more --- pointed to a phase in which there will be no semblance of order.

Beyond Aleppo, the opposition brought news of "massacres" near Damascus. Of the 180 deaths claimed by the Local Coordination Committees on Wednesday, 104 were in and around the capital, including mass killing of 50 in Jdeidet Artouz and 27 in Yalda.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed the death of 74 civilians, 43 soldiers and 18 insurgents on Wednesday. The regime does not post news of casualties in its forces.

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