The Corner

Syria@U.N.

The WSJ on the resolution (sub. link):

The U.N. Security Council’s unanimous decision yesterday to castigate Syria for its role in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is being described in press accounts as a “minor diplomatic victory” for the U.S. Let’s underline the word “minor.”

The text of Resolution 1636, which is legally binding under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, says that the regime of Bashar Assad “must” detain any Syrian suspected by the U.N.’s investigative team of being involved in Hariri’s assassination. It slaps a travel ban on Syrian suspects — who likely include Maher Assad, President Assad’s brother; and Assef Shawkat, the president’s brother-in-law — and freezes their financial assets. And it threatens “further action” if Syria fails to cooperate with the investigation, the mandate of which has been extended until mid-December.

That’s progress, we guess, after the U.N. fashion. Yet in order to obtain a unanimous result the U.S. dropped the explicit threat of economic sanctions against Syria, bowing to pressure from China and a veiled veto threat by Russia, which even now sells weapons to Syria and acts as its international patron.

More problematic is the message Syria actually “got” from the resolution. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the unanimous verdict “sends a very strong signal to Syria of its isolation.” Maybe. But Arab despotisms have a history of emerging stronger from the crises they survive. That was the case with Gamal Abdel Nasser after the 1956 Suez crisis and with Saddam Hussein after the ruinous, and ultimately fruitless, Iran-Iraq war.

Also: “The U.S. has also made its task more difficult by sending Syria an unmistakable message that regime change is not on the U.S. agenda.”

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