Mourners carry the body of a man draped in the...

Mourners carry the body of a man draped in the Syrian revolutionary flag during the funeral for four people killed in a raid by government forces in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. (April 5, 2012) Credit: AP

A dim hope is better than no hope at all. In Syria, it's perhaps all we can expect.

So we hope the government of Bashar Assad will uphold the peace plan put forward by former UN chief Kofi Annan in his role as envoy on behalf of the United Nations and the Arab League.

The good news is that Syria has agreed to the plan, which calls for the Assad regime to cease military operations, withdraw its forces from population centers and permit more humanitarian aid, all by Tuesday. The goal, Annan has said, is a full cease-fire two days later.

The bad news is that, given Assad's ruthlessness so far, UN officials and diplomats are skeptical that he will fully comply. Indeed, signs so far point to only modest withdrawals by Syrian government forces, which were still shooting at people yesterday -- raising worries that Assad acquiesced only to buy the time needed to crush the opposition.

The Annan plan obviously isn't perfect; it would leave Assad in office, after all, since he never would have agreed to a plan involving the end of his rule. But the arrangement is still the best chance to end the bloodshed. Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 Syrians in a savage attempt to suppress political opposition, which has arisen as part of the broader Arab Spring. Although Assad has been protected at the UN by Russia and China, both have gone along with the peace plan, perhaps recognizing they had to give a little.

Most other nations have turned against the Assad regime. Several Arab countries are funneling money to the rebels. The United States has pledged to supply communications gear and humanitarian assistance.

Even if a cease-fire takes hold in Syria, it doesn't mean Assad should be allowed to remain in office indefinitely. He's a murderous tyrant who has brought ruin to his country. Sooner or later, he's got to go.

A political solution would be best for all, including Assad himself, who can't be blind to the fate of other such despots when they failed to read the handwriting on the wall. For now, the Annan plan may at least halt the killing -- and open the door to the killer-in-chief's exit.