United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appears ready to appoint former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi to replace Kofi Annan as head of the joint U.N.-Arab League mission to Syria. Other than Kofi Annan, who failed to protect the vulnerable in both Rwanda and at Srebrenica, it would be hard to find a more insipid choice than Brahimi.
As Foreign Minister of Algeria, Brahimi distinguished himself as a fierce Nasserist, not as a man of peace. As undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Brahimi sat silent as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds and, in the wake of the failed uprising, killed as many if not more Iraqi Shi’ites. Visiting Baghdad in 1997, Brahimi added insult to injury, as Iraqi television showed him embracing Saddam’s Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a man now facing a death sentence for crimes against humanity. The love may have been genuine: As a special UN representative for Iraq in the wake of Saddam’s fall, Brahimi made rehabilitation of Baathist war criminals a central pillar of his mission.
Western diplomats may celebrate Brahimi for his assistance patching together an Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall. Whatever success he can claim there, however, came because Afghanistan was distant enough from the failed ideologies of the Arab Middle East. Not so in Syria. Appointing Brahimi as mediator is akin to putting a fox in charge of the hen house. He promises not to bring peace, but to serve the whims of a dictator bent on repressing those seeking to unseat him.