Friday, September 23, 2005

Syrian leadership in deep trouble?

Washington Post's Robin Wright reports today that Syria is seeking a deal to prevent punitive action by the United Nations if the Damascus government is implicated in the Feb. 14 assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister:

Over the past month, the government of President Bashar Assad has been inquiring about the potential for a deal, roughly equivalent to what Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi did to end tough international sanctions imposed for his country's role in the 1988 midair bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the officials said. Gaddafi eventually agreed to hand over two intelligence officials linked to the bombing for an international trial, a move that began Libya's political rehabilitation.

But the United States, France and U.N. officials have all recently signaled to Syria that they will not compromise on the completion of a full investigation into the slaying of Lebanese reformer Rafiq Hariri -- or subsequent legal steps, wherever the probe leads, the officials said.

Also, Bernard Gwertzman from Council of Foreign Relations interviews Joshua M. Landis, a Syrian expert on the consequences of UN's ongoing investigation into the killing of Rafik Harriri for the Syrian leadership:

Joshua M. Landis, a Syrian specialist on a Fulbright fellowship in Damascus, says the ongoing UN investigation led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis into the possible involvement of the Syrian government in the assassination last February of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Harriri, has produced “great speculation” in Damascus on whether the top leadership of the Syrian government will become embroiled.

Noting that the United States is bringing great pressure on Syria to do more to stop infiltration of insurgents into Iraq, Landis said there is no real dialogue going on now between the two countries. He says, “People here feel there is nothing they can do to satisfy Washington—that Washington, constitutionally, is anti-dialogue with Syria.” He adds that the question everyone is asking is, “Are there some terms that they could actually offer the United States” to satisfy Washington?