SYRIA IN TROUBLE?….A UN report blaming Syria for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri has electrified the Middle East:
The publication of the report on the deaths of Hariri and 22 other people in a car bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14 unleashed a reaction seldom seen in the Middle East. The 54-page document was read in its entirety on al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television network; other stations broadcast hours of coverage Friday on the report and its fallout. To many people here, its publication marked a turning point in Middle East politics, signaling a looming confrontation with an uncertain outcome.
“This is simply the beginning,” said Farid El-Khazen, a Lebanese lawmaker and political scientist. “There is little room for maneuver left for the Syrians now. They have to cooperate fully to save themselves from more isolation or they opt for rejection of the report, claiming it is all political. Syria doesn’t have a middle-ground option.”
This article, written by the Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, is much more interesting than any of the others I read, which mostly just regurgitated predictable quotes from George Bush and Condoleezza Rice about the need for the UN to take some kind of “action.”
But what really matters is how this is playing in the Middle East. Reading a 54-page report on the air doesn’t sound like very compelling TV to me, but I assume al-Jazeera knows its audience. This must be big stuff.
POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, Michael Totten, our man on the scene, says he talked to a few people in Beirut Friday morning and “none were particularly worried about what is going to happen.” In fact, “It?s a nice day, actually. The weather is glorious.” We’ll see who calls this one right.