Although Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said — and Deputy Saad al-Hariri has reiterated — that the objective of UN Security Council Resolution 1757, which endorsed the formation of the tribunal of an international character under Chapter 7 [of the UN Charter], is not to undermine Syria’s stability or target it, these assurances are not accurate because the course of future developments could destabilize the political and security situation in Syria.
I do not mean the trial itself or the subsequent sentences. Rather, the subsequent developments are the source of danger to Syria.
In order to further elucidate my viewpoint, we must imagine the final outcome of the trial.
The first possibility is that Syria is acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence against it, and the second possibility is that Syria is indicted for the crimes. The most harm that the tribunal can inflict upon Syria, if it is indicted for conspiracy or collusion in the killing of Al-Hariri and other Lebanese figures, is to punish a limited number of its officers. Any punishment will certainly not encompass the Syrian leadership because several Arab governments, in addition to the Russian Government, have insisted on granting the Syrian leadership immunity from any punishment because an official must not be held accountable for his employees’ crimes. Probably, the trial that investigates the crime of Hariri’s[assassination] will end like the trial investigating the crime of bombing the Pan Am airplane over Lockerbie. In that case, only two Libyan officers were indicted and one of them was imprisoned.
The punishment did not encompass anyone within the Libyan leadership. However, Syria’s fight against the tribunal yesterday, today, and tomorrow is what has threatened Syria itself, not the tribunal.
This reminds us of what happened to Saddam Hussein. Although international investigations were proceeding in his favor, his stubbornness and his confrontations made it easy for the US side to target him. Everyone wonders: Why all this Syrian fear and confusion over there solution? It is natural for Syria to be worried because it is aware that it is the target of the resolution, the trial, and the punishment, no matter what is being said to the contrary. However, Damascus’s grave mistake is that it is indulging in its rejection, even though it would be better for it to accept the tribunal and deal with it in a positive manner. No matter what is said against the tribunal of an international character, it is an institution that is governed by legal bases. Hence, it cannot indict anyone based on weak evidence, no matter how strong the suspicions are against the defendants. Consequently, the danger to Syria is not from the resolution or the tribunal, but rather from the errant Syrian reactions that might prompt it to commit many mistakes that will produce many dangers. We have seen numerous examples of Syria’s panic [reactions], such as the mobilization of Lebanese forces against the tribunal and the creation of a serious political and security situation. If Syria presses ahead with its policy of confrontation against the tribunal, it will actually create a hostile atmosphere that could destabilize its security and make others lose confidence in its ability to administer the crisis that the country has been witnessing. All this is over a trial that — according to most enthusiasts — will only encompass several second-tier Syrians, should there be an indictment.