Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Sunday that Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was "dead wrong" for opposing efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis in Syria.
"It is a piece of unmitigated nonsense, in effect, saying don't even try to resolve it peacefully, don't give the Syrians hope, give weapons and let's kill each other," Annan, the who served as current U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy for Syria until earlier this year, told CNN's Fareed Zakaria Sunday.
Zakaria pointed out that Ryan had referred to Annan's diplomatic initiative directly in his Oct. 11 debate with Vice President Joe Biden. Ryan claimed Annan's work had been in vain and allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad time and space to murder innocent civilians.
"We could have more easily identified the Free Syrian Army, the freedom fighters, working with our allies, the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis, had we had a better plan in place to begin with, working through our allies," Ryan said. "But no, we waited for Kofi Annan to try and come up with an agreement through the U.N. That bought Bashar Assad time. We gave Russia veto power over our efforts through the U.N. and meanwhile about 30,000 Syrians are dead."
Annan heavily criticized Ryan for foreclosing the option of a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Syria. He also said that blustering about intervention without following through fosters a false impression among rebels on the ground, which makes resolution of the crisis more difficult.
"He was dead wrong. Honestly, this is one of the first situations where I've seen people claim that attempt to mediate complicates or allows more killing to go on. And in almost every situation, we try to find a peaceful solution. If it works, well and good. You save people," Annan said. "But sometimes by making these statements and raising the hope of the people that the cavalry is on the horizon, you complicate the situation and really -- and create the fighting and the killing to go on. And if it's not going to come, one should look at other solutions."
Biden responded during the debate that the international community had supporting diplomacy in Syria but that the Obama administration had determined the U.N. route was not working.
"You don't go through the U.N. We are in the process now and have been for months in making sure that help, humanitarian aid, as well as other aid and training, is getting to those forces that we believe, the Turks believe, the Jordanians believe, the Saudis believe are the free forces inside of Syria. That is under way," Biden said. "Our allies were all on the same page, NATO as well as our Arab allies, in terms of trying to get a settlement. That was their idea. We're the ones that said, ‘Enough.'"
Officially, the U.S. position remains that a political settlement is still the goal, based on the six- point plan Annan outlined in a declaration over the summer in Geneva.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.