The difficult situation of the Syrian government after Mehlis’s accusations requires a very precise and reasonable strategic move to avoid possible sanctions.
Syria has two options regarding Mehlis’s report. The first one is Saddam’s, that is, to refuse collaborating effectively with the UN and Mehlis, which means, not to hand over the seven suspects mentioned in the report. The second choice is that of Gadhaffi. In other words, to be unconditionally subjected to U.S. pressures, which are translated into the handing over of all suspects, dismantling all chemical and nuclear programs, unlimited collaboration with the U.S. policies and services, and a radical change of policies of the regime and their orientation.
The question is that Syria’s problem, with its geographical situation and senior officers accused in the report, is very much different to that of Libya. The Bush administration will take advantage of such a report to sanction El Assad’s government, especially, because it has refused to serve the interests of the United States in the region, while neoconservatives demand full submission from the Arab leaders. The Syrian president will only be facing U.S. pressures. His friends and those of his father will not abandon him and be subjected to U.S. dictates that would ensure that he will remain in power.
Mehlis’s report leads to three main conclusions. The first one refers to Ghazi Kanan, whose name is not included on the black list. Such absence makes the hypothesis that a suicide would be doubtful, and gives more credibility to the versions of an alleged assassination in order to prevent him from taking power and representing the U.S. government after the fall of the regime in Damascus. The second conclusion confirms that no Arab leader has a higher status compared to others. Mehlis’s report has shown that all telephone calls from President Lahoud and other senior Lebanese officers have been recorded somewhere in Washington or Tel-Aviv. The third and last conclusion is about the attempt to involve directly or indirectly Palestinians who are responsible for the assassination of Hariri. This, in future, would be useful for political maneuvers in Lebanon or Syria.
Collaborating or not with Mehlis would not change the situation at all. Besides, the Iraqi and Libyan experience has taught us where the U.S. demands begin and where they stop, that is, humiliation and loss of national and personal dignity. However, counting on Russia or China’s intervention is not certain just because the Arabs deserve no credibility or respect.

Al Quds Al Arabi (United Kingdom)

المأزق السوري الأخطر”, by Abdel Bari Atouan, Alquds al-Arabi , October 22, 2005.