Thursday, October 20, 2005

Syria Back in the Hot Seat

A UN investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has implicated high Syrian officials and indicates collusion with Lebanese security forces. The US and France were already preparing to take the issue to the UN Security Council and this report makes that a virtual certainty. (BBC: UN Hariri report points to Syria).

Between the UN report on the assassination, US assertions that Syria is promoting the Iraqi insurgency, and Secretary of State Rice's discussion of military force, the stage is being set for a confrontation between the coalition and Syria. That France is cosponsoring the UN resolution implies a more unified front than we have seen in recent years. Coincidentally, the UN report was prepared by German investigators, effectively eliminating another major source of contention in the Security Council. The only dissenting voice may come from Russia, long a Syrian ally, however even they will be hard pressed to oppose action against the assassination of a head of state.

What form of action the UN resolution takes remains to be seen, although some form of economic sanctions appear likely. The US will attempt to include wording in the resolution to force Syria to tighten their borders with Iraq and take action against insurgents being harbored on Syrian soil. It's doubtful that France and Germany will allow that resolution to be as harsh as the US would prefer, however, and it's certain they will not allow verbiage that implies any authorization of force.

Syria is definitely on the hot seat now. How they respond to UN sanctions and to the increasing pressure being applied by the US will determine if they can avoid military conflict. Given their past history of openly promoting terrorist organizations, I doubt it. Before this war is done, I believe we will see action taken against Syria. From where I sit, it's not so much a question of if, it's a question of when.


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