As expected a Western sponsored Security Council resolution on Syria faced a double veto by Russia and China. The Council may agree to a “technical rollover” which would extend the mandate of the UN Monitoring Mission for a few days. But the larger message of today’s action in Turtle Bay is clear: the Kofi Annan-driven peace process is effectively over.

The vote ends what was the western community and Arab’s League’s first and last hope to bring about a political solution to this crisis. There was never a Plan B.  The Kofi Annan led process was always a longshot; its success was directly contingent on the degree of support it received from Russia. In the end, Russia never gave Kofi Annan the political backing he needed to do his job.  This veto was the final blow to a process that was already struggling mightily.

What’s next? Assad’s days as leader of Syria are most certainly numbered. Events on the ground (including defections) will dictate the diplomacy. As Assad’s regime fractures there are any number of ways that Syria can go: The country can spiral into bloody ethnic conflict that would draw in other countries in the region; something awful could happen with Syria’s chemical or biological weapons stockpiles; Assad could suffer a coup; really, there is no telling what will happen next.

What we do know, however, is that the international community’s last chance for a peaceful solution to this crisis is effectively over.  Amid a deepening civil war, the international community will have to start from scratch.

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