Monday, October 17, 2005

Annan Naive or Foolish re: Hariri Probe

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said today that he intends to keep the report on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as technical as possible and does not want the report to be politicized. (Reuters: Annan warns against abuse of Lebanon report). His concern is that the report, being issued this Friday by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, will "inflame the region."

Aside from the fact that the region is already inflamed, there is no way to avoid the consequences of this report regardless of the verdict. At issue are claims by the US, France, Lebanon and others that the assassination of Hariri was orchestrated by Syria and the pro-Syrian Lebanese government officials. Naturally, Syria denies those charges.

As part of his investigation, Mehlis has already named four pro-Syrian generals as suspects. He and his staff also interviewed Syrian interior minister Ghazi Kanaan who, coincidentally, committed suicide last week. It seems doubtful at this point that Mehlis' report will not point the finger at Damascus.

If the report does blame Syria as most suspect, there will be increased international pressure within the UN to, at the very least, impose sanctions as punishment for their actions. Clearly, Annan wants to avoid that confrontation, even if it means allowing the assassination of a head of state to slide. As we've seen throughout his tenure, Annan's methodology is to do anything that will avoid confrontations. His preference is to allow rogue regimes to run rampant rather than take action against them.

When he finally leaves office in December of 2006, Annan will leave behind a legacy of scandal, increased nuclear proliferation to third-world countries (Pakistan, India, and North Korea), and a significantly weakened UN Security Council. Failure to enforce the overwhelming majority of resolutions passed by that body have rendered it virtually meaningless. Annan's successor will be hard pressed to rebuild the credibility of the UN. That task will be further complicated by a likely dispute over Annan's successor. There are already factions building that favor either an Asian replacement (opposed by the US and allies) or an Eastern Europe replacement (opposed by China and allies.) Either way, it appears likely that the next Secretary General will preside over a fractured and severely weakened UN. On the plus side, the next Secretary General could not do a worse job than Kofi Annan.


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