In May, Lakhdar Brahimi stepped down as the UN mediator for Syria due to frustration over how to end the three year civil war in the country. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan quit the same job in 2012 for the same basic reasons. So what does Staffan de Mistura, Brahimi’s replacement, have that the others don’t?
Staffan de Mistura is willing to publicly disagree with the White House. In 2011, while serving as top UN special envoy to Afghanistan, de Mistura objected to comments made by President Obama after the massacre of 14 people including seven UN officials in the city of Mazar-e Sharif. Obama blamed the Afghans for the killings, which were incited by the sight of American pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp burning a Koran on US television the month before. de Mistura told the press: “I don’t think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news—the one who burned the Koran.”