Chatham House researchers Rime Allaf and Nadim Shehadi launch seperate reports this week on the situation in Syria and Lebanon. Both make excellent reading.
Open for Business: Syria’s Quest for a Political Deal
Rime Allaf, July 2007
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The Syrian regime no longer feels weak and as its prospects of survival improve, its self-confidence is increasingly apparent.
The tactics of Syria's opponents have mostly been counterproductive, giving the Syrian regime increased leverage. Attempted isolation has not weakened the regime and external pressure has strengthened its domestic position.
Meanwhile, its regional position has been bolstered by policy failures in Iraq and Lebanon.
The Syrian leadership is now betting on certain favourable developments which will continue to boost its confidence, both in the region and vis-à-vis Western policy.
It is futile to conduct policy towards Syria on the basis of antipathy towards the regime. Syria's national interests must be recognized for there to be progress.
Syria will not 'capitulate' to US demands merely to become another 'moderate ally'. The Syrian regime is not looking for popularity, but for recognition. It seeks a business deal rather than a love affair.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: The UN on Trial?
Nadim Shehadi and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, July 2007
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The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been created in response to demands for 'The Truth' following the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. This represents a new departure for a country which previously employed a 'forgive and forget' formula of conflict resolution.
The Tribunal joins a growing number of courts and tribunals with international features, but it is unprecedented in the manner of its creation and in its nature.
The UN Security Council has intervened despite strong opposition on legal and political grounds. It has also overridden Lebanese constitutional procedures, but in so doing it has provided a possible solution to a difficult political situation in Lebanon and laid a claim for the rule of law to prevail over violence.
There are high stakes for the UN in Lebanon. The UN was seen to have failed to protect Lebanon in the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. The Tribunal is part of extensive UN involvement in Lebanon which is viewed by some as welcome protection and by others as part of a conspiracy against Syria and Iran.
The creation of the Tribunal may have significant consequences for Lebanon and the international community. There could be further terrorist attacks and assassinations in Lebanon and confrontation with Syria.
Failing to set up the Tribunal would have been interpreted as a green light for assassinations and terrorism to continue with impunity in Lebanon. Any political cost involved in setting up the Tribunal will be offset by the higher cost of not doing so.