WASHINGTON — The much-hyped plan to end Syria's misery and guide its transition to democracy appears to have fallen flat despite the endorsement of Western powers.
Russia's objections gutted the most stringent conditions on a potential interim leader in Damascus. The Syrian opposition quickly dismissed the proposal as a waste of time and with "no value on the ground."
The U.S. and its allies insist the plan will force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. Russia disagrees and Assad is unlikely to acquiesce.
It all leaves U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's efforts to end 15 months of bloodshed no better off than before.
Western nations needed to win Russia's backing for the plan at an international conference Saturday in Geneva, so they dropped the demand that "those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation" would be excluded from the process.
That was widely understood to mean Assad and much of his inner circle, and while the West insisted, Assad's main allies in Moscow resisted intensely.
As a result, the plan contains no criteria for excluding anyone from the transitional government and leaves its composition entirely up to the "mutual consent" of Assad administration and the fractured opposition. Both sides presumably have unlimited veto power over members of the interim government, which could prolong the stalemate and keep Assad in charge.
U.S. and Western officials acknowledge the possibility of that scenario. But they insist that the "mutual consent" language puts the opposition on equal footing with Assad in determining who will be part of the governing body.
Annan said he could not imagine that the Syrian people would choose anyone with blood on their hands to lead them.