Friday, October 28, 2005

Syria being railoaded

PV Vivekanand

CURTAINS go up next week for the next act of the US-Israeli-written script for the Middle East: A United Nations Security Council resolution setting out demands that the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad could not meet if it wishes to survive in power. These would include unfrettered access to Syrian leaders, including the president himself, for the UN commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The most serious demand would be that Syria detain "key" suspects implicated in the Hariri assassination, freeze their assets and impose a travel ban on them. The suspects are said to include Bashar Al Assad's brother Maher, brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, and three other people occupying senior positions in the Syrian intelligence network.
Surely, Bashar Al Assad would not be able to meet such a demand, and those making the demand know it well.
What would follow the expected Syrian refusal is, again, very natural: Tough economic, diplomatic and military sanctions against Syria to be followed by military action if needed.
There are many theories and arguments explaining how the UN investigator, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, reached the preliminary conclusion that he found “converging evidence” of Syrian involvement in the Feb.14 bomb blast that killed Hariri and 20 others in Beirut.
However, none of these theories and arguments would be able to fend off the American-Israeli drive to remove Syria as a hurdle in the US quest for global supremacy and the Israeli drive for regional domination without having to make any compromise over Arab territories it occupied during the 1967 war, mainly the Golan Heights in the Syrian context.
The American case against Syria has many points of pressure: Damascus is not doing enough to prevent the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq across its border. It s continuing to support Palestinian groups which carry out "terrorist" attacks against Israelis. It is closely linked with Lebanese militant groups such as Hizbollah and thus is continuing to "meddle" in Lebanon in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for dismantling of all militias and armed groups in Lebanon, including the Palestinians living in refugee camps in the south of the country.
The net picture that emerges from the American charges against Syria closely resembles the case that the US built against Iraq before invading that country and toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.
From the look of things at this juncture, Syria does not seem to have a way out of the bear trap. It could either meet the US-engineered UN demands that would be raised next week or remain defiant and face destabilisation leading to "regime change."
However, destabilising Syria would mean destabilising the entire region, what with the Iraq embroglio spinning out of American control despite Washington's assertions to the contrary. It is not a winner-takes-all and the loser-gives-up all situation because a destablised region would not mean a docile area conducive to American interests.
The Arab League is perhaps the only natural party which could avert the negative course of events. There is talk about behind-the-scene mediation to avert a "regime change" in Syria, but Washington does not seem to be too keen on it either.
However, an effort has to be made to defuse the situation, and it has to come from the Arab League with support from Europe and others and lead towards a solution that does not further compromise legitimate Arab rights for the sake of protecting and advancing external interests in the region.