The New York Times thinks so — they report today that the Bush administration’s alliance with France against the Assad regime will get the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that will impose tough economic sanctions if Syria refuses to fully cooperate with the investigation into the Rafik Hariri assassination. The Russians and the Chinese, who both had made noises about vetoing any such resolution, have been convinced to sideline themselves:
Security Council diplomats worked out final details on Sunday on a tough resolution against Syria, an action that will forcefully step up international pressure on the country’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, and deepen his government’s struggle to ward off increasing isolation.
Diplomats from the resolution’s three co-sponsors, Britain, France and the United States, said they expected passage on Monday and did not foresee a veto from either China or Russia, the two countries most reluctant to punish Syria.
The resolution threatens Syria with economic penalties if it does not give full cooperation to the United Nations investigation that has identified high-ranking security officials as suspects in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.
The measure also orders Syria to take into custody and make available to the investigators people they suspect of involvement in the killing.
If Assad has to turn over the suspects, one of two things will happen, both bad for the opthalmologist who fails to see the writing on the wall. Either he refuses and the sanctions drop onto an already shaky Syrian economy, or he agrees and his political cover deserts him — both a prelude to a coup.
After losing Lebanon for economic exploitation, the Syrians cannot afford any more economic hurdles and will not handle this kind of outside assault. The collapse of the Syrian economy will force the monied interests out of the country, and those have provided Assad with most of his power base. Assad doesn’t generate the same kind of fear his father did, and that means his enemies will not find themselves cowed merely by his personality the way they might have with his father.
Turning over the suspects, of course, means coughing up his own family and the people at the top of the military intelligence apparatus. Before that happens, the military will likely have something to say about protecting its own, especially after suffering the humiliation of the withdrawal from Lebanon just this year. That looks like actual suicide, rather than political suicide.
If the Bush administration can get this through the UNSC, we may see radical changes in Syria in the next few weeks. The West should be prepared for it.