Assad and Bush both claim Victory: Next Stage of Conflict Begins
The next stage of the Lebanon conflict has begun. Both Asad and Bush are claiming victory. Bush has turned his sights on Syria and Iran. He must limit their influence in Lebanon and attempts to rearm Hizbullah and rebuild it as an independent force in Lebanon. In the coming weeks we will see the Bush administration paint Syria as a force of evil that doesn't want peace and that is building dangerous nuclear and WMD programs.
Syria will try to paint Washington and Israel as the aggressors who don't want peace. His statement that: "Peace would involve Israel returning occupied lands to their owners and restoring their rights," is a first salvo. He is claiming that real peace means supporting international borders and all UN resolutions. He accuses Israel and the US of only wanting justice for themselves and of aiming to dominate the region in their own narrow interests.
Assad Accuses March 14 Forces of Inciting Strife by Asking Hizbullah to Disarm (Naharnet)
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday that Lebanon's anti-Syrian parliamentary majority is responsible for Israel's war on Lebanon and accused it of inciting strife in the country by asking Hizbullah to lay down its arms.Commentary: The price of not trying to bring Syria into a Lebanon deal is renewed opposition from Syria and a determination on Asad's part to rearm Hizbullah. This Asad speech is the counterpart of Nassrallah's speech thanking the Syrians following their departure from Lebanon. Both sides are determined to bolster the language and stand of the other in order to present a united front to their enemies. Asad promises that the Hariri led government's "fall is not far away."
"Saving the present Israeli government is among the tasks of these (March 14) forces. After the failure of this war, these forces want…to provoke strife in Lebanon by trying to disarm the resistance," Assad said in a speech at the opening of a journalists' conference in Damascus.
He said that the March 14 forces "barely waited for the blood to dry before they started speaking of removing the arms of the resistance. But they have failed and their fall is not far away."
"They are the ones who bear responsibility for the war and the destruction," Assad charged in his hard hitting speech.
The Syrian leader, in his first major public address since Israel launched its offensive against Lebanon on July 12, said that America's plan for a "new Middle East" has collapsed after Hizbullah's successes in fighting against Israel.
He said the region had changed "because of the achievements of the resistance."
"The Middle East they (the Americans) aspire to ... has become an illusion," he said.
Assad also lashed out at Arab regimes, without naming them, who have criticized Hizbullah for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and starting the war. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan -- all allies of the United States -- criticized Hizbullah's actions at the start of the conflict.
"We do not ask anyone to fight with us or for us ... But he should at least not adopt the enemy's views," Assad said.
He accused Israel of using Hizbullah's capture of two soldiers as a pretext for launching its massive assault adding that the Jewish state does not want peace.
"Peace would involve Israel returning occupied lands to their owners and restoring their rights," he said. "Israel is an enemy founded on the basis of aggression and hegemony."
"The peace process has failed. It has failed since its inception," he said.
Israel reacted strongly to Assad's speech warning Damascus not to intervene in Lebanese affairs or try to use Hizbullah to influence the Lebanese government.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking in northern Israel, said after Israel's war against Hizbullah, Syria must "understand that Lebanon is taking off, or is at least meant to take off, in a different direction without them."
She said Syria would no longer be able "to influence (Lebanon) through such groups like Hizbullah.
Turning to the United States, the Syrian leader said Washington's participation was needed for a peace settlement in the Middle East, but he said peace cannot be achieved under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.
"This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace," he said. "Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future."
In the absence of negotiations, he said, resistance against Israel is a legitimate option.
"Resistance is aimed at achieving peace not war."
Assad defended Hizbullah and criticized U.N. cease-fire resolution 1701 for holding the group responsible for the violence.
"Israel is the one who is responsible," he said.
Assad said this war revealed the limitations of Israel's military power.
During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli forces surrounded Beirut within seven days of invading, he said. "After five weeks it (Israel) was still struggling to occupy a few hundred meters."
"From a military perspective, it (the battle) was decided in favor of the resistance. Israel has been defeated from the beginning," Assad said. "They (Israelis) have become a subject of ridicule and have lost their credibility."(AFP-AP-Naharnet)
It is not certain whether Washington could have promised Syria enough to win its support in a deal to disarm Hizbullah. But by not having tried, Washington and Israel guaranteed the opposition of Syria. So long as Israel presumes to be able to keep the Golan Heights as annexed territory, Syria will do everything in its power to thwart attempts to win a separate peace agreement with Lebanon.
Syria has now rededicated itself to opposing the disarming of Hizbullah and the fall of the March 14 coalition in Beirut.
President Bush has come out swinging as well. He insists that Damascus can be thwarted and subdued.
U.S. President George Bush said the United Nations resolution to halt the fighting between Israel and Lebanon will stop Hezbollah from acting as a "state within a state" and deal a severe blow to the efforts of Syria and Iran to exert influence in the Middle East.The US Calls Lebanon Peace Deal Strategic Setback for Iran, Syria. Farid Ghadry's Washington sponsored Syrian opposition party has begun spinning stories about Washington's fear of a revived Syrian nuclear program. Their primary evidence for this derives from Ambassador John Bolton's unverified claims of a year ago. See this article: Syria's Secret Nuclear Program and Long Term Threat.
In this article: "Israel Finds Evidence That Syria, Iran Arm Hezbollah With Russian Weapons" Israel explains that Hizbullah did not manufacture all its own missiles and anti-tank weapons, but in fact purchased them elsewhere. They came from Russia and Iran; some passed through Syria.