Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Habitual Feet-Shooters!

Yes, they have done it again, just as I knew they would. But then, and as I have argued repeated here, Bashar & Co. have always been quite reliable when it comes down to outsmarting themselves.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about this story with the second witness that has reportedly turned himself “willingly” to the Syrian authorities and is about to publicly recant his earlier testimony to the Mehlis team.

One witness doing something along these lines was really more than enough, especially considering the fantastic tale he span to his not-so naïve and credulous audience. But two witnesses! With a third in Turkey claiming that he was approached by members of the CIA and offered a sweet deal should he implicate certain members of the Syrian regime! That is simply too much.

The Syrian regime has just moved from a seemingly passive non-cooperation strategy into an obviously active attempt at sabotaging the Mehlis investigation. Mehlis can easily make such a case now should he choose to. In fact, he is probably attempting to do just that, as he has just asked to interview the first recanting witness again in order to clarify certain points in his earlier testimony.

This rather obvious move on part of Mehlis will likely prove quite surprising to the certain members of the regime. They will probably be voicing their outrage soon. And let’s see to which extant they will cooperate this time around. It’s indeed one of those damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-don’t situations. And they have placed themselves rather nicely in it, as is their want in such situations.

Besides, the problem with all this strategy seems based on the assumption that Mehlis has revealed all that he has in his preliminary report. I have already argued a while back against the inherent dangers of such an assumption, but obviously, and as is usually the case with every piece of advice I have voluntarily offered throughout the last three years, my warning went unheeded. Who am I to warn anyway, huh?

Moreover, approaching this crisis from a strictly legalistic angle misses the point. The UN Security Council is not a court of law. It is a political body par excellence. Circumstantial evidence often suffices for its members to adopt very stern resolutions, if the political will is there. And in the case of Syria, it is.

Russia and china will not go out of their way to support a regime that continues to paint itself in a corner and continues to show that it is nonviable. Furthermore, Syria is not Libya. It simply doesn’t have anything to offer the Russian or the Chinese as this stage. Its oil and natural gas deals are not that lucrative, and the Chinese already their foot in the door anyway.

For the Russians and the Chinese, Syria at this stage is nothing more than a negotiating chip that they can use to extract concessions from the US and the EU, a chip that has been devaluing itself continuously to the point where it increasingly seems rather worthless now.

Should the UNSC decide to go ahead with imposing sanctions against members of the Syrian regime at this stage, even if on the simple basis of growing suspicions of attempting to sabotage the Mehlis investigation, Russia and China will most likely be on board.

So, Bashar & Co. can go ahead and continue to be their usual inept selves, they can continue to engage in tactics like wagging the Hezbollah and co-opting witnesses and they can keep on trying to rally the people in their support (albeit popular support for dictators is always fickle, as we have seen in the case of Saddam), but nothing is going to stop them from going over the edge. They have already passed the point of no-return.

What would happen to the rest of us, I wonder?