Kofi Annan has stepped down as the international crisis mediator for the UN on Syria, in an acknowledgement that without unity on the Security Council, nothing will be done at an international level.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stepping down as the U.N.-Arab League mediator in the 17-month-old Syria conflict at the end of the month, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Thursday.

“Mr. Annan has informed me, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Nabil Elaraby, of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on 31 August 2012,” Ban said in a statement, adding that he and Elaraby were in discussions on appointing a successor to Annan.

Annan failed because it was impossible for him to succeed. Multiple resolutions have failed at the Security Council, and the cease-fire agreement Annan got the Syrian regime and the rebels to tentatively agree to eventually became irrelevant amid heavier fighting. Without Russia on board to back up the agreement, Annan had no chance of implementing his initiatives.

So that formally puts the international community off the table for any non-violent resolution to the Syrian conflict. A return to violent resolutions, facilitated by the international community:

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad [...]

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.

But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad’s opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.

The Obama Administration denied comment. We’re back to a 70s-era period of covert intervention away from the spying eye of Congress, who has become almost entirely irrelevant on foreign policy matters. Secret wars and secret interventions have become the norm.

Meanwhile that “coherent and effective” Syrian rebel force is the same force that just did this:

Human rights activists have condemned the public shooting in Syria of four apparent Assad loyalists by rebels in the battleground city of Aleppo.

Video posted online shows the men, who included the alleged head of a feared local militia, being put up against a wall and shot with Kalashnikov rifles.

Human Rights Watch has told the BBC the act was potentially a war crime [...]

The head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents violence by all sides in the conflict, condemned the killings by the rebels as “criminal”.

This would be the side to which the US is providing covert support. Incidentally, this explains why so many of the regime forces have stayed on the side of Assad and refused to defect; they recognize their potential fate.

So we’re going to see a civil war in Syria go on as long as the Springfield tire fire, with atrocities all around. Aleppo, the site of the biggest fighting, appears mired in stalemate, and that will probably be the case more generally for years.