October 20, 2005

The Eve of the Mehlis Report

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. - Eric Hoffer (Via Lebanese blogger Ramzi)

Tomorrow the U.N.’s special prosecutor Detlev Mehlis will release his long-awaited report on the results of his investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Saddam Hussein’s trial may have begun yesterday, but Lebanon is more concerned with the other Baath Party, the one that’s still in power in Syria. The question, at this point, is not whether the Syrian regime will be implicated. It will be. The question is: how high up in the regime are those Mehlis will name?

The U.S. and France are already geared up to punish Bashar Assad. They’re just waiting for Mehlis to say “go.” Assad has already lost plenty of face. When he lost Lebanon so fast and so furiously, his weakness was revealed for all the world to see. If the U.N. indicts him, or men close enough to him, whatever legitimacy his government has left in the eyes of the international community may fall to its level of legitimacy inside Lebanon.

Many Lebanese worry not so much about what the report will say. They worry about what Syria will do about what the report says. Syria could violently lash out inside Lebanon. It’s possible. But I don’t expect it will happen. Assad has had a rough year. It looks like his year is about to get worse. He will not be able to save himself by turning Lebanon into Iraq.

Few people in the world have the nerve to call for Assad’s head. They don’t want Syria to turn into another Iraq. Syria really does look like an Iraq waiting to happen. But Assad would have to be dumber than his harshest critics insist if he thinks the world would prefer the Iraqification of the region to the Iraqification of Syria. He has his reluctant defenders because he looks like the least bad option for now. He will be wise to keep it that way.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 20, 2005 1:07 AM
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