Across the Bay

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And Then There Were None

You know you're all by your lonesome when even Martin Indyk gives up on you (hat tip, Daniel Drezner):

The UN Security Council should now take the next step by ratcheting up the pressure on the Syrian regime. Because the Mehlis report makes clear that the investigation needs to be pursued further and that Damascus is obstructing, it there is now an opportunity to pass a resolution that would extend Mehlis’s mandate and threaten sanctions if Syria does not cooperate quickly.

This will place the weak and maladroit Syrian president on the sharp horns of an irresolvable dilemma. To cooperate with the investigation may mean surrendering his brother-in-law to international justice – an unthinkable betrayal of family that for Mr Assad would entail the risk of a coup. To dismiss the demands of the UN Security Council, however, would subject his country to increased isolation and economic hardship and over time risk the increasingly tenuous hold on power of his minority Alawite regime.

Mr Assad has already sought a middle way out of this dilemma, sending emissaries to Washington to offer a Libyan-style “package deal”, involving the surrender of lesser officials and an end to Syria’s rogue activities. But his offer comes far too late.

President George W. Bush has already taken the measure of the man and found him unreliable. Mr Assad’s commitment to stop Syrian support for the Iraqi insurgency was honoured in the breach. His withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon was followed by a bombing campaign that has forced many of the Lebanese political class to flee. Even people in Washington (like me), who once advocated a “carrots and sticks” approach to the Syrian ingénue, have given up on him.

Indyk is still singing the tune of people "holding sway" over Bashar, suggesting that he's not really in charge. I remain extremely skeptical of this position. I don't buy it for one second. It's perhaps Indyk's way of justifying his earlier error in judgment. It doesn't really matter much. He goes on to write (echoing Lee's reading a little bit):

[W]e should expect ugly actions in response to international pressure rather than compliant ones. But Syria’s behaviour is now under an international microscope. Lies, obstruction of justice, sponsorship of terrorist attacks, assisted suicides and assassinations will only serve to tighten the noose around the regime’s neck.

The rest is similar to, or at least compatible with, what I and Michael Young have written. Although Indyk is right to write: "Western powers should remain patient and methodical as they bring the last rogue regime in the Arab world to account. Steps will need to be taken to deter Syria from further destabilisation of Lebanon and to prevent insurgents crossing into Iraq." He doesn't offer tacit proposals.

Finally, he may be too optimistic on the value of sanctions and the "Syrians doing the rest." But it's quite clear Bashar has lost all audience. Well, almost... but those still in attendance don't really matter, especially now with Indyk jumping ship (Seale bailed out much earlier).

How to put this into song?*

*The song (part two, continued from above), "sahran li-wahdi" ("I lie awake all by myself"), is by famed Egyptian Diva Um Kulthoum. First performed in 1947, it was composed by giant Egyptian Oud player and composer, Riad es-Sunbati, who collaborated with Um Kulthoum for about 38 years, from 1935-1972 (the longest working relationship she had with any composer), and composed 89 of her songs (the most). The lyrics are by the great poet Ahmad Rami, who also long worked with Um Kulthoum, writing some of the finest poetry for her. The duo of Sunbati and Rami really exemplifies the very finest of mid-20th c. Egyptian music. Rami was also in love with Um Kulthoum (unrequited), and his songs reflect these emotions. Which brings us to this song, whose lyrics, combined with the main maqam (musical mode), Huzzam, which has both a solemn and melancholic, even supplicative feel, reflect this desperation perfectly. I found it quite fitting!

Update: Ammar Abdulhamid has a related post that reflects on the ongoing "war" regarding US policy in the ME. You hear me (and IraqPundit as well, with Iraq) talking about this all the time when it comes to commentators on Lebanon (or Iraq, etc.) like Helena Cobban or Juan Cole. These people aren't writing about Iraq or Lebanon. They're fighting a much narrower internal battle, in their heads.