Saturday, November 05, 2005

Syria and the Gaddafi Gambit

The American trick used against countries it wants to destroy has been to put the leaders of such countries in an impossible position. In the case of Serbia, the clear message was that NATO would keep killing Serbian civilians until the Serbian leadership gave up (which it did). In Iraq, Saddam was offered two options: give up his weapons of mass destruction (which he couldn't do, as he didn't have any!); or completely disarm (leaving him at the mercy of the upcoming American attack, not to mention at the mercy of his neighbors). In the older case of Libya, Gaddafi was framed for Lockerbie, and thus Libya was permanently subject to international sanctions. Now we have the case of Syria, framed for the assassination of Hariri (the real reason, of course, isn't Hariri, but Israel), and forced to give up important members of the government, an option the Americans know will lead to some kind of power struggle and regime change by coup. How does Syria extricate itself from the American trap?

Libya is the only country that has thus far managed to solve the riddle. Gaddafi realized that the Americans were in a position where they were desperate for a 'win' in fighting the 'war on terror'. The sanctions were preventing the international development of Libyan oil fields, so there was also significant pressure from financiers and oil companies to have the sanctions lifted. Although Libya was almost certainly not responsible for Lockerbie, Gaddafi had the brilliant idea to take responsibility for it anyway, and offer to pay substantial reparations. Bush had to jump at this offer, and the sanctions were lifted (despite the fact Libya apparently hasn't even paid the reparations!).

There is a hint in the Gaddafi gambit in what Syria must do in order to avoid the neocon thrill at the thought of another 100,000 dead Arabs. Syria has to figure out a way to comply with the American demands on paper, while not succumbing to the neocon's intended regime change. If Syria can come up with a solution that looks good, Europe will play along, and the Americans won't be able to lead Syria into Bolton's trap of sanctions, allegations of 'violations', and the inevitable bombings to enforce the sanctions.

Patrick Seale writes (referring to Syrian President Assad):

"In their different ways, both the international community and his own public are urging him to act. They are encouraging him to carry out a 'corrective movement' against undisciplined barons of his regime, including men close to him, similar to the palace coup which brought his late father, Hafez Assad, to power in 1970. The choice before Assad is clear: either continue to claim that Syria is innocent of the murder of Hariri and that the charges in the Mehlis report are unsound and politically motivated or recognize that mistakes have been made and carry out a purge of the top security officials named in the report."

The trick would be to find just the right patsy, the figure or figures that could plausibly take the blame for Hariri and whose absence from the Syrian political scene would benefit the country (if he has the cojones, he might even go for the Big Kahuna, but that might be too risky and unnecessary). This is a tremendously cynical move, but, as none of these guys are saints, probably not that unjust. Once the right patsies are picked, Syria could then pull its 'Gaddafi Gambit' - take full legal if not moral responsibility for the assassination, and offer to pay reparations due to the 'unauthorized' actions of the few 'bad apples' who, just like the American torturers in Iraq, acted without legitimate government authority (ha!). Syria could then offer to try these 'bad apples' itself, or turn them over to an international court not controlled by the Americans. In one daring move, Assad could clean up an internal problem while getting the Israelamericans off his back.