Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Syria Implicated Further; France Waffles Again

The second report issued by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis detailing his investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri further implicated Syria in the assassination plot. Adding to the seriousness of the mounting case against Syria, Mehlis found strong evidence of witness tampering and the destruction of key evidence on Syria's part. (Washington Post: Report Says Syria Interfered in Hariri Probe).

Naturally, Syria denies the charges and claims they fully cooperated in the UN authorized investigation. Mehlis has asked the UN to extend his commission's authority for another six-months, even though he intends to step down from the commission when the mandate expires Wednesday.

Based on mounting evidence against Syria, the US is pushing for UN sanctions against the rogue state. As it did last time, however, France is once again waffling on any inclusion of the threat of sanctions in a UN resolution. France agrees with pushing forward another resolution against Syria, however it is still holding out against wording that would actually give that resolution some teeth. The French version of the revolution accuses Syria of not "providing full and unconditional cooperation" however it stops short of punishing them for their failure to fully cooperate.

We are seeing a very familiar theme in the UN. Consistently, it is France and typically Russia that oppose any resolutions that give the UN authority to enforce those resolutions. Russia, in fact, was one of the nations that opposed any threat of sanctions against Syria in the first round of resolutions. Indeed, France has always had a close relationship with Syria, although in recent years it has been much closer to Lebanon - at least since the election of Assad. Chirac's attempts to play the role of mentor for Assad were rebuffed and the relationship between France and Syria have been somewhat strained ever since.

What is quite clear in all this is that there are two rogue nations bordering Iraq that will have to be dealt with in 2006. Iran on one side has been discussed extensively in this journal. Syria is clearly the other. Both of those rogue nations are a significant threat to the stability of the Middle East. Both are heavily anti-Semitic and pose a threat to the security of Israel. Both are open sponsors of terrorism, providing support for groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. With Iran, the path in 2006 seems pretty clear and virtually unavoidable. With Syria, however, there is the potential for sanctions to be implemented with some effect. All we need is to hurdle the last two remaining roadblocks, France and Russia. In any road-map to peace in the Middle East, those two nations remain the biggest obstructions. One has to wonder what they stand to gain by dragging their feet.


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