August 22, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1256

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Praises the Resistance, Harshly Criticizes Arab Leaders, and Threatens Israel

August 22, 2006
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 1256

In an August 15, 2006 speech at the fourth conference of the Syrian Journalists' Union, in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad praised the resistance as "essential for the achievement of peace" and for the restoration of Arab territories and rights, and threatened that "[Israel's] weapons... will not protect [it] in the future" from Arab vengeance. He also accused the Arab leaders of serving Israel's and America's interests.

The following are excerpts from the speech, published in English by the Syrian news agency SANA. [1]

"In the Lexicon of Some Arabs, 'Victory' is Equivalent to 'Adventurism' and 'Recklessness'"

"Ladies and gentlemen, [participants in] the fourth general conference of the Journalists' Union, it gives me pleasure to meet you at the opening of … your fourth conference and to express my appreciation for you… and for [all] the honest and honorable journalists who have been fighting a media battle no less ferocious and dangerous than the battles fought by your brothers on the fields of honor and dignity.

"Your battle aims at preserving the intellect and the spirit of the nation, and at protecting its identity and heritage against the systematic invasion which violates its dignity, tears apart it[s] unity, distorts its cause, and strikes at its will to resist by promoting a culture of defeatism, submission, and blind adherence to agendas set by the enemy and by those who support it and promote its projects.

"I am glad to meet you in this new Middle East - new in the sense that we understand and in the shape we want, although it is not yet complete. It is new with the achievements of the resistance; new in that it has drawn clear lines between the different forces; new in uncovering the games and conspiracies and in lifting their masks and fake terminology in an unprecedented manner. This is the new Middle East which Syria has been repeatedly promoting as the only hope for the Arabs if they are to have a place under the sun in the political and material sense. You all know that it was not easy for us to convince many people of our vision of the future. We had to wait for the future to become the present and to speak for itself. Today the facts speak for themselves, not only as we imagined them in the past but in a clearer and more expressive manner.

"We meet today, when the Middle East they aspire to, and which is based on submission, humiliation and on depriving peoples of their identities and their rights, has become an illusion. It has actually turned into a popular uprising throughout the Arab world, an uprising which is pan-Arab by nature, and is characterized by dignity and by rejection of all pretexts and excuses [which aim to] keep us submissive, so that we will be killed in silence, like the sacrifices that were once offered to avoid the wrath of the gods. In the past, offering sacrifices was considered a form of wisdom. So are we supposed to adhere to that wisdom today? And does wisdom have a meaning when it has been separated from courage?

"If we are supposed to follow the example of the invasion of Iraq, which reminds us of dark periods in mankind's past,… [then it appears that] some of our Arab sages still adhere to that wisdom today. For wisdom to exist, it must be coupled with courage in order to give people the stability that [is] necessary in order to make them wise. But when fear exists, there is no place for fake wisdom which leads… to defeat and humiliation disguised as wisdom.

"In our present Arab world, we might achieve victory under another false label, namely 'adventurism' or 'recklessness.' If 'wisdom' has come to mean 'defeat' and 'humiliation' in the lexicon of some Arabs, it is natural to find that, in their lexicon, 'victory' is equivalent to 'adventurism' and 'recklessness.'"

"Throughout the Peace Process, We Arabs Adopted Peace as the Only Choice, and Abandoned All the Other Choices"

"In order not to become absorbed in theoretical discourse, let us ask ourselves what we have achieved by being led - unwisely, irrationally and recklessly - by some of our supposed Arab sages over many decades. We have achieved a great deal, but against our interests. Let us take the peace process, for example, and ask whether it has succeeded or failed. Recently, we have been constantly talking about the failure of the peace process. All this talk about the failure and the death of the peace process is absolutely true, but it is more accurate to say that the Arabs are the ones who failed in the peace process since they did not understand the meaning of making peace a strategic choice. They did not distinguish between making peace a strategic choice and making it the only choice. When a certain strategic choice exists, that does not mean that there are no other strategic choices, or that there are no other tactical, but not necessarily strategic, choices.

"Throughout the peace process, we Arabs adopted peace as the only choice, and abandoned all the other choices. Later, we then replaced this single choice with the choice of peace given cheaply or for no reward at all. According to this choice, we offer Israel everything and get very little in return. In fact and in practice, we have offered a great deal, and some of us have offered everything, and have gotten nothing in return. That is why we see the Palestinians paying the price now, and this is why Syria refused, based on its vision, to relinquish any of its rights. When we say that we have made peace our strategic choice, it does not mean that we have rejected all other choices. On the contrary, as the realization of peace becomes more and more elusive, other ways and methods of regaining our rights become more important and necessary. On the other hand, we in Syria have stressed this choice - the choice of peace - from the very beginning of the peace process, but we adhered to the choice of resistance as long as peace has not been realized, particularly since the assumed partner in peace does not believe in this theory in the first place, and has provided us with one proof after another in confirmation of this fact.

"Leaving aside the many massacres perpetrated by Israel against the Arabs, and other [pieces of] evidence, there is the clear evidence of the statement [made] by former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir at the beginning of the peace process, in 1991, when he said they will make the process last for ten years, which means that peace would not be achieved. That is what happened. Today, 15 years later, peace has not been achieved. Before the [beginning of the] peace process, Israel used to say that it wanted peace while Arabs wanted war. It surprised them that the Arabs agreed to become involved in the peace process. That is why they reacted by making this public statement.

"But the accepted Arab wisdom used to be that we have to close our eyes in order to embarrass Israel before the international community, which has been reduced to a few states which support Israel, ignoring and neglecting the rest of the world which mostly supports our causes. The result was that we have embarrassed [ourselves] in front of our Arab people. We lost our respect and credibility in front of our friends and enemies alike. This was the Arab responsibility for the failure of the peace process."

"[Israel] is an Enemy... It Does Not Want Peace"

"But what about the responsibility of others, with the exception, of course, of Israel and the United States? The whole world became interested in the Middle East after the 1973 war. They focused all their attention on our region and started to talk about peace. This continued until we started the peace process in Madrid. This [process] went through different stages. When most of the countries of the world were assured that peace negotiations had been launched, they handed the whole process over to the United States, which remained its sole sponsor. [The United States], in turn, handed the process over to Israel. So every proposal made to the Arabs during that period was either an Israeli proposal or a proposal approved by the Israelis.

"When most countries realized that the Arabs had dropped the real choice for peace, and replaced it with peace at the pleasure of Israel and the United States, they turned their back on the peace process and on us. Only today, during these battles, they remembered the peace process and remembered us. Of course we have to exclude Israel and the United States from this category, because Israel is an enemy, and as I have said, it does not want peace. To achieve peace, Israel must return the occupied land and restore the usurped rights, but it is an enemy [state] which was built on the basis of aggression and expansionism. We have always said that the United States is necessary and essential to the peace process owing to its position as a superpower and its relations with different parties. But not just any United States. This administration adopts the principle of preemptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace. This administration has been in power for six years, and there is [still] no peace. Consequently, we do not expect peace soon or [any time] in the foreseeable future.

"We ask: Have they remembered us lately because of the death and destruction that the Israeli terrorism has caused in Lebanon? Of course not. The Palestinians have been subjected to killing and destruction for years, yet we did not hear of initiatives, solutions or extensive activity of the UN Security Council, like we see today. Have they [finally] acted because they are afraid of chaos or because they are concerned for the security of the region which affects them directly? The region's security is a sufficient reason for them to act, but the region has been on the verge of explosion for years, and they did not act. So why are they acting at this stage?

"The fact is that they act only when Israel is in pain. And Israel is never in pain except when we have power. This means, in the final analysis, that the world does not care about our interests, feelings and rights except when we are powerful... With their words, they push us towards peace, but with their actions they push us towards war. Hence, the countries concerned with the peace process, which are mostly European, are responsible for what is happening.

"We might wonder what motivates some officials in these countries to convey messages and make statements concerning [some] ill prisoner [imprisoned in some Arab state]. They are so concerned about the medical condition of this prisoner. What nobility! What humanity! What greatness! [But] we might ask: Where were these same officials when massacres were perpetrated in Lebanon? All those women, children and elderly people [killed], and all this destruction, yet we have not heard anything from them - no messages and no protests, only some timid statements. I say that this has [completely undermined] their credibility. This means that their messages have other objectives. We know these objectives, but things have now become very clear.

"We might also ask that French official, [who is so full of] enthusiasm, particularly when it comes to Syria, whether he is going to call for an international investigation committee to investigate the massacre of Qana, not to mention the other massacres, the way he called for an investigation into the assassination of [former Lebanese] prime minister Hariri. [Does he treat the two cases differently] because, in the first case, the suspect was Syria, and this is a sufficient motive and justification [for an investigation], while in the second case the suspect is Israel, so nothing should be done? Or [perhaps] the children of Qana and the other poor people do not deserve this official's attention?"

"Resistance Does Not Stand in Contradiction to Peace"

"We are convinced that the natural way to achieve peace is through negotiations. But when this option fails, or when it is not available in the first place, resistance, in its different forms, is the alternative [way] to restore rights. Resistance does not necessarily or exclusively [mean] armed [resistance] - it could be cultural or political [resistance], or other forms of opposition. So the aim of supporting the resistance is not to achieve war but to achieve peace by deterring aggression. If this does not work, it can be through war in order to liberate the land. Resistance does not stand in contradiction to peace, and is not an alternative to it. In our circumstances at least, it is necessary for the achievement of peace. Otherwise, the result will be that we will lose [both] the war and the battle for peace - particularly since Israel and those standing behind it have totally turned towards the military option based on preemptive war, while we Arabs have remained in our place, debating and negotiating among ourselves, based on our belief in the promised peace with an illusory partner that prepares itself on a daily basis for its next [act of] aggression against the Arabs.

"The issue of resistance and its importance has been a subject of long discussions with foreign and Arab officials for over a decade now. In the period before the liberation of most of the Lebanese territories in 2000, we discussed this issue with Arab and foreign officials. It did not surprise us, of course, that foreigners were unable to understand our reasoning, but in our deliberations with Arabs, which are of interest to us, we used to tell them that this resistance will liberate Lebanon, and they - I mean some of them, of course - used to answer that [the operations of the resistance] were more like cat scratches [i.e. ineffective]. In 2000, Lebanon was liberated thanks to the resistance, which proved they were wrong and we were right. After 2000, we again started to have the same kind of discussions, since we Arabs are sometimes fond of repeating history with all its details without [making any] progress. The same discussion took place, and pressure was exerted on Syria with regard to the same issue. Our answer was that the resistance is a deterrent to any Israeli aggression, reasoning that they once again rejected. The recent battles now prove the [validity of] this reasoning…"

"[Certain] Lebanese Groups Failed to Implement Their Pro-Israel Scheme, so They Incited Israel to Carry Out a Military Invasion"

"The latest developments in Lebanon have proven the validity of that reasoning. The aggression against Lebanon is not primarily linked to the abduction of the two soldiers, but was planned in advance with the objective of [mending] the Israeli scheme that has suffered several setbacks such as the defeat of the Israeli army by the resistance and its withdrawal [from Lebanon] in 2000, and the failure of its allies in Lebanon to carry out the missions that were delegated to them in the recent past. As for the abduction, it was merely a justification for starting this aggression, [meant to appease] world [opinion]. However, the result was another failure for Israel, for its allies and for its masters, and greater [determination on the part of] the national forces that support the resistance, rooting the concept of resistance more firmly in the minds and hearts of hundreds of millions in the Arab and Islamic region.

"Everyone now knows that the plan was prepared in advance, and many have written about the fact that this war had been planned years before. In the Western and Arab media, it is said... that the scheme took its final shape last June and was supposed to be implemented next fall. Some say that [one of Israel's] considerations [in choosing the timing] was the tourism season, but of course Israel could not have been worried about the tourism season - perhaps they were concerned about the interest of their agents in Lebanon.

"This reminds us of what I said in my speech before the Parliament on March 5, 2005, [namely] that what is happening now is similar to what happened on May 17. Many [members] of the young generation do not recall what took place on May 17, 1983. Before the [Israeli] invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there were Lebanese forces that worked as agents for Israel. Those forces failed in their plans to strike the joint Palestinian-Lebanese resistance, so they started to incite [Israel] and called on it to save them by waging a war. And the war indeed took place with the objective of hitting the resistance and incorporating Lebanon into the Israeli convoy. May 17 failed. Today, there are similar repercussions: Lebanese groups failed to implement their pro-Israel scheme, so they incited Israel to carry out a military invasion in order to save them from their predicament and attack the resistance, thereby [forcing] Lebanon to join the Israeli camp.

"In both cases there was Arab backing. That is why I stressed the May 17 incident. When a product fails in the world of business, it is reintroduced into the market with a new brand-name, with certain superficial changes. Similarly, no matter what name we give to those groups - whether we call them February forces or March forces - I stress that their product is the May 17 product, which is an Israeli product. This [statement] will naturally provoke many attacks on TV, which will be helpful in assessing the impact of this speech. The more violent the attack, the better the speech, I think. Of course we will laugh a lot because there is a lot of political comedy today in the Lebanese political scene.

"Now we can establish the connection between [U.N.] Resolutions 1559, 1780 and 1701, Hariri's assassination, and the recent war on the one hand, and the role of [the aforementioned] Lebanese forces and certain Arab forces on the other. The link has now become clear. You remember that, two years ago or maybe even less, we used to say that Resolution 1559 had nothing to do with the extension of President Lahoud's term in office. At the time, it was quite difficult to convince people of that. Now the same thing is happening again. The war has nothing to do with the capture of the two soldiers, and the whole world acknowledges this. Therefore, nothing has anything to do with anything. There is a preplanned scheme and whoever fails to see this reality, after all these events, when matters are so clear, must be suffering from a vision problem - I mean vision of the mind rather than of the eye."

"The Resistance is Essential… Natural and Legitimate"

"Therefore, this resistance is essential in as much as it is natural and legitimate. Its legitimacy stems from the fact that the Israeli aggression did not stop in 2000 - it takes the form of almost daily invasion of Lebanese airspace by Israeli warplanes. Add to this [the fact] that Israel is still occupying some Lebanese territories and is still holding Lebanese prisoners who have been [kept] in Israeli jails for a long time.

"As for why this resistance is essential, let us just think of the direct achievements of the most recent battles on the ground. The greatest achievement of those battles is that they constituted a national response to the cowardly propositions that have been circulating throughout our region, especially since the invasion of Iraq. What made them [even] more glorious was the reaction of the Arab people in general, which was a purely pan-Arab response to the abominable and seditious propositions that we have recently heard and to those who stand behind [these propositions]. It is as though these people are saying to [those who make the propositions]: 'We are Arabs and this is our resistance and those who do not support it are against us.' This means that the national feeling is still there, and has not been weakened as some might claim. On the contrary, this feeling is now at its peak, thus surpassing all the destructive thoughts that suspicious parties with well-known ends are seeking to market among the Arab citizens.

"The glorious battles fought by the resistance with uncommon faith and competence have demonstrated a number of facts: The first is that military force, no matter how great, meets with defeat when it does not have faith and morals, and when it is not based on legitimate rights and principled policy. The second [fact] is that resistance which has faith, determination and steadfastness, and which endorses the vision, principles and goals of the people and is [itself] endorsed and adopted by [the people] achieves victory. In these circumstances, the victory of the heavily armed is reduced to destruction of [buildings] and to killing of civilians. And since any occupation is an immoral act, it is doomed to fail and to be defeated. Israel is the best example of this. Military force is not everything and the destructive force of weapons is not everything.

"The only thing Israel possesses is destructive force at the military level, and some additional [advantages] on the international level. But it does have one very big advantage, namely the weakness of the Arabs, both moral and physical. When we decide to close this gap, a decision that is only up to us, the balance is undoubtedly in our favor. This is the third fact which stresses the limited [nature] of the Israeli force despite its superiority. This limitedness is determined by the intensity of our faith, our steadfastness and our will to fight, and that should enhance our self-confidence and erase all traces of psychological defeat fostered by the enemy's propaganda... This fact should further motivate Israel to consider the future outcomes of its terrorist policy against the Arabs.

"Here we can draw a comparison between... the war [in Lebanon] in 1982, 24 years ago, and the last war in Lebanon a few days ago. In 1982, Israel started its war or ground invasion on June 6, and reached Ba'abda, overlooking Beirut, on June 13. In other words, on the seventh day [of the war] Israel was very close to Beirut. Then they resumed the process of surrounding and occupying Beirut. Today, after almost five weeks, Israel is still struggling to occupy several hundreds of meters here and several hundreds of meters there, and they are trying to reach the point closest to the Litani River, which is only six kilometers [away], and yet they fail. [In fact,] I am sure that if there had been some spring or tributary of the Litani on the Palestinian-Lebanese border, they would have put their feet in the water and said 'we have reached the Litani!' They have become an object of ridicule and have lost the credibility which they never had in the first place. They say 'we have occupied a location,' and then they say 'we have bombed the location.' It is supposed to happen in the opposite order. It is common sense that you first bomb a site, then occupy it.

"In any case, what is the difference between the first war and the second? In 1982, the material gap between the Israeli [side] and the Palestinian-Lebanese side in [terms of] military resources was smaller than the gap [that exists] today. Israel's power has doubled several times during this period and today there is a wide gap between [the Israeli army] and the resistance. But the [real] difference between them lies in the will to fight. As a matter of fact, in 1982 there were tough Palestinian and Lebanese fighters who fought in the real sense of the word. But this was not enough, since in those days, certain leaderships did not have any will to fight at all, whereas now the will to fight is there, both among the lower [ranks] and at the top, and there is popular support for the resistance that helped it to succeed. This is a major difference between the two wars that we need to be aware of."

"[This War] Exposed the [Arab Leaders as] Half-Men and [as] People With Half-Positions"

"Another positive aspect of this war is that it has revealed the [real] situation of the Arabs. Before this war, if we had asked any Arab citizen about the situation of the Arabs, he would have said that [the situation] is bad, which is true. But the Arab citizens used to have a [distorted] image of the Arab situation. Now they see it as it really is, without any cosmetics. This war prevented the use of such cosmetics in that it shed light on [people's] positions in a very clear way. There was no room for half-solutions in this war. It exposed the half-men and the people with half-positions, and exposed all the [people with] 'delayed' positions, i.e. those who were waiting to see where the scale of strength would settle before aligning their positions [with those of the victorious side]. This is one of the very important qualities of this war.

"For all the above-mentioned reasons, Israel regarded this battle as a matter of life or death - because it causes Israel to lose its dignity and its moral influence on us, and thus [causes it] to lose the historical role and the mission for which it was created by the West. That is why they have been working so hard to make up for their military defeat and for their failure to achieve their objectives on the ground. [They have been trying to compensate for their defeat] by means of any political or international achievement that could justify Israel's continued existence and its role in the eyes of its citizens, leaders, and allies.

"As usual, their only outlet is the Security Council, which the U.S. has transformed from a council that preserves security into one that destroys it by issuing a resolution that responds to Israel's demands and saves it from its predicament at the expense of Lebanon, paving the way for further division and instability.

"If we examine the Security Council resolutions issued in the last two years, i.e. Resolutions 1559, 1860 and 1701, and the resolutions concerning Darfour, for instance,… we will completely understand where the Security Council is headed. It is headed towards interfering in the domestic affairs of member countries and towards generating unrest. Some people say the Security Council is impotent, but this is not true. The Security Council was impotent when an international balance existed. Had the Security Council been impotent now, the United States would not have relied on it to harm different places around the world.

"The truth is that the rest of the world, or perhaps most of it, has become impotent in the face of the Security Council. We used to refer to 'the international community.' The international community is a group of countries, some of which are members of the Security Council, and some of which are their allies outside the Security Council. They fight us with or without the Security Council resolutions, which means they will fight us in any event. Yet the Security Council resolutions give them more freedom of action in this battle. Our weakness also stems from the fact that, whenever we speak of the Security Council, some people in the Arab World and in the world at large say 'this is a Security Council resolution,' or 'this is what the Security Council wants', as if it were a council with divine power, or as if its resolutions are sacred or revealed by God, and this is certainly dangerous."

"The National Decision [Must] Always Take Precedence Over any International Decision, Even if it Leads... to War"

"The solution, therefore - as I said in earlier stages when I talked about Resolution 1559 at Damascus University - is that the national decision [must] always take precedence over any international decision, even if this leads to fighting and war. We have no other option. This is what we recently said to whoever contacted us, to everybody we contacted and to everybody we met with during the hostilities. We said that any resolution issued by the Security Council - whether under Chapter VII or under any other chapter - will either remain unimplemented or will lead to instability if they try to implement it by force, against the will of the countries of the region, or - in the case of Lebanon - outside the Lebanese consensus. [If we take this decision], the Security Council will be in a different position. When all the countries decide that the national decision takes precedence [over the Security Council resolutions], we will no longer have to be afraid of the Security Council because it will reflect the balance of power. We have decided to be weak. When we decide to be strong, this balance will change with or without resolutions.

"So we shouldn't waste time and speak of a good or bad resolution in light of this international balance. Here I will move away from the diplomatic expressions used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… and say that, when a resolution concerns Israel and the Arabs, it can [only] be a bad resolution, a worse resolution, or a [slightly] less bad resolution. Since the United States is the antagonist and the arbitrator at the same time, the assessment will [always] be like this.

"But does this mean that Resolution 1701 contains no positive elements at all? No. It does contain some positive elements. For us, the most important element is [the call to] stop the war, stop the destruction of Lebanon and stop the killing of innocent civilians, children, women, elderly people and others. This is an essential goal for the Arabs, for Lebanon and for Syria, and also, I believe, for many [other] countries and peoples around the world."

"[Resolution 1701] Held the Resistance Movement Accountable [for the War]… We Cannot Accept [This]"

"Yet experience has taught us that the form may be positive while the content is negative. This is the only problem with this resolution. It held the resistance movement [i.e. Hizbullah] accountable. I don't want to go into the details, but this point is one of the striking and stark facts that we cannot accept. Who should be held accountable? I'm not expressing a position here, but everybody [believes] - even outside the Arab and Muslim region - that Israel is the party who should be held accountable. We still have to say that those who encouraged Israel to attack Lebanon, and who stood by and supported [Israel], should be held accountable as well.

"The May 17 Group is responsible for the destruction, the massacres, and the war, from beginning to end. Resolution 1701 came as a political lever for this group, aimed, of course, at providing Israel with the political gains that it failed to achieve by military means. The resolution was also an international political lever. Why international? Because these people no longer have any national lever, so they were forced to find an international one. They will use this lever to start attacking the resistance, and we have already seen that. Before the blood of the victims was dry... and even before the displaced [people] headed back to their villages, the May 17 Group members were already starting to talk about disarming the resistance movement. This means that one of their tasks, now that the war has failed, is to save the current Israeli government and Israel's domestic front, either by instigating internal strife in Lebanon, thereby transferring the internal political struggle from Israel to Lebanon, or through the option of disarming the resistance. But I say to those people that they have failed and that their fall is imminent.

"The battles have also proved that the Arabs' words have no weight or significance in international forums. Only rarely have we Arabs come to a complete agreement on anything, but we did achieve that in the Beirut meeting, and [then] the Arab delegation, representing all the Arab countries without exception, flew to New York [only] to face rejection and indifference. This indifference obviously wasn't directed at the delegation members, but rather at those who stood behind it, i.e. the Arab countries.

"Indeed, it was the situation on the ground, and the steadfastness of the Lebanese people and of the resistance, rather than the Arabs' political performance, which [caused] the previous draft resolution to be modified into the current version, which is not as bad. This is an important fact we must realize. We have come to the conclusion that, in all these matters, relying on the international situation does not yield fruitful results. As Arabs, if we do not search for points of strength, we have no weight or political impact, and all this talk is mere illusion.

"I believe that the real battle has only started, but not in military terms. Now that the post-war positions have been revealed, the real battle has just started in Lebanon. But we all heard the speech of Hizbullah Secretary-General Mr. Hassan Nasrallah, who answered them. He who reads the messages understands the content. We believe that not only the Syrians, but all the Arab people stand by the resistance completely and unequivocally."

"In Military Terms, the Resistance Achieved a Victory, Whereas Israel was Defeated; We Must Translate the Military Victory Into a Political [One]"

"In military terms, the resistance achieved a victory, whereas Israel was defeated by any military standards - not at the end of the war but from its very beginning. Yet wars bring woes, and Lebanon paid a heavy price in material [damage] and from a humanitarian [point of view]. The Arabs must therefore stand by Lebanon and rebuild what was destroyed. Yet the question is: Will the blood of the martyrs and civilians be shed in vain? The bottom line is that we must translate the military victory into a political victory, at least in [terms of] the peace process. On the political level, the first result of the battles was renewed talk about the necessity of achieving peace, of returning lands to their owners and of restoring rights. We have been consulted on the issue as Arabs, after such a long time. This means that part of this issue has now come to lie in our hands, albeit a small part. This is of course thanks to the resistance. Hence, standing by the resistance and supporting it will help us to have a larger say in this issue, which in turn will lead the countries involved [in the peace process] to take our opinion and interests into account.

"In other words, resistance and peace constitute one route rather than two, and he who supports one has to support the other. Those who claim to have the experience and vision of peace,… [should] come and show us their achievements in the field of resistance. Their experience is incomplete [and cannot] be learned from. And since we are living in an exceptional historical period, there is no room for courtesies, bargains or settlements. Rather, we have to speak frankly: We, in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, still have occupied territories; this means we are the ones concerned with war and peace. In the first place we want our Arab brothers to stand with us, and we welcome anyone who wants to do so, but only if they share our vision and take our interests [into consideration]. We were the ones who suffered in war and in peace negotiations throughout the last decades. As for those who do not share our vision, we ask them only to stand aside and let us do what we have to do. We are not asking anyone to fight with us or for us."

"[The Arab Countries] Must Not Adopt the Enemy's Vision on Issues That Concern Us"

"I say this because every time there is unrest, we hear some official saying 'why did they drag us into this?' Nobody is dragging anyone into anything. The truth is that every country is responsible for itself. Naturally, they didn't say this to us, they said it to the resistance. But as a general principle, everyone is responsible for his own country. Yet the bottom line is that they must not adopt the enemy's vision regarding issues that concern us, and their roles shouldn't be at the expense of our interests. We say this because one who has had no experience in war is not entitled to assume the role of a guide or an instructor in peace[-making]. Resistance today will shape the political directions of tomorrow, and the position towards it today will determine the roles to be played tomorrow.

"In other words, the era of political opportunism and political interference has come to an end, especially now, after these battles. If anyone wants to play a role for domestic reasons, at the expense of the issues that concern us, we reject this. And if anyone wants to play a role in order to appease the West, we reject this as well. We in Syria haven't yet decided to sell out our cause in the international market or in any other market. I don't think that the Palestinians have decided to sell their cause either, after the Oslo [agreement], the Wye River [agreement] and the Wye Plantation [agreement], among others; nor do we see such a phenomenon in Lebanon.

"At the next stage, the resistance will have a fundamental role in the Arab arena. I don't mean the Lebanese resistance, but rather resistance as a [general] concept that has spread significantly, especially in the recent [period]. But let's consider the role played by the resistance in the last meeting of the Arab foreign ministers. Three weeks before this meeting, the ministers met in Cairo in an atmosphere similar to the one that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq: almost absolute division among Arab countries. But then, within three weeks, without the ministers having been replaced and without any reshuffling of the governments, we suddenly come to a unanimous agreement. But on what did we agree? Or rather why did we agree? The reason is the Lebanese consensus.

"The essence of this Lebanese consensus is the position of the resistance. Had the resistance said 'we won't accept these points' or 'we have reservations about this or that point,' the ministers' meeting would have had no significance, or would not have even take[n] place. And if, after the meeting, but the resistance had said 'we reject your ideas,' the meeting would have failed and everything else would have failed with it.

"This is only one role of the resistance. There is yet a bigger role that will be part of the domestic situation in the Arab countries. All of us Arab officials want our countries to be stable, but such stability cannot be realized or maintained when there is constant contradiction between the official positions and the public positions. This contradiction reached its peak in the present period."

"The International Hegemonic Powers… Use [Arab] Officials and Governments [to Promote] Their Own Interests,… [and Even to Promote] the Interests of [the Arabs'] Enemies"

"Most of the Arab people have clearly and completely - or almost completely, since nothing is ever absolute - taken the side of the resistance and challenged us as officials. They challenged the silence of some [officials] and the bias of others, and decided to move in this direction. Therefore, I call upon all Arab officials to stand by their people, and thus stand by the resistance - for the people are the key to the stability that we are constantly evoking and seeking to achieve, especially in the present circumstances, after the war on Iraq and the schemes to partition the region.

"Experience has taught us that the international hegemonic powers… use [Arab] officials and governments [to promote] their own interests, [acting] against the interests of those same officials and governments and sometimes [even promoting] the interests of their enemies. When they have exploited them to the utmost, those powers even throw these officials into the pit at the first opportunity, so that [these officials] lose both their external and domestic [support].

"Ladies and gentlemen, during the last war there were many statements in the air which sometimes exceeded the limits of acceptability, and were very close or even exceeded the limits of what is permitted nationally and morally. This may indicate either dubious background [of those who made the statements] or enormous ignorance of the facts. Thus, it is wrong to consider this war from a narrow perspective which separates this confrontation from the general context of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the peace process and its setbacks. This narrow perspective separates this confrontation from the content of the Western and American plans and from what has been happening in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon over the last few years. All these points confirm that this aggression was preplanned, and clarify that the aggression was carried out by Israel, which was the tool, but that the decisions were taken by America, along with certain other Western countries. If others think that [the war broke out in] reaction to the abduction of two soldiers, then this is silly to an unprecedented degree."

"[The Resistance] Needs No Permission From the Government; The Fighters of the Resistance [Were Characterized as] 'Adventurous'… This is Not Acceptable"

"Most of these propositions were made in certain documents and statements, like the proposition that the resistance should [only act with] permission from the government. In fact, resistance movements receive backing and legitimacy from the government and the people; they do not ask permission from the government... there would be no resistance if it had to depend on the government. The word 'adventurers' was mentioned; if the fighters of the resistance are adventurous, then should we say that Yusuf Al-A'zma, Sultan Basha Al-Atrash, Hassan Al-Kharat, Ibrahim Hanano and Sheikh Salah Al-Ali are all adventurous as well?! Should we say that Sa'd Zaghlul in Egypt, Suleiman Al-Halabi, a Syrian who killed the British high commissioner in Egypt, and Joul Jamal, another Syrian who blew himself up on a French ship and thus conducted the first martyrdom operation in the Arab region, were also adventurous?! If this is the case, then we should ask the education ministries throughout the Arab World to change the curricula and all the terminology.

"Of course, this is not acceptable. We always notice the biased [nature] of certain Western propositions which are still being made against the Arabs. They say that the Israeli reaction is 'disproportionate' and 'unbalanced,' which implies that if Israel had reacted according to a certain proportion, its aggression would have been acceptable. They are not against aggression in principle; they are against the extent of this aggression. There will come a day when they give us charts specifying what degree of Israeli killing and destruction is acceptable and cannot be considered as a violation of any political, human, or moral principles, or of the various international conventions.

"It was also stated that Israel has the right to defend itself in the face of the aggression of the resistance. Here we see the policy of double standards. [Let us] apply the same concept... to the Palestinians: If they want to react [to Israel's aggression], to what extent [do] they have the right to destroy and kill in Israel?! If we apply this concept in practice, nothing will remain in Israel.

"At any rate, what the recent events have revealed - [namely] the interrogations of the agent network recently captured in Lebanon, along with the positions of May 17th group before and after the aggression - confirm that this scheme, as I said before, was planned in advance, and we divide it into three parts:

"The first part is [U.N.] Resolution 1559, the assassination of [former Lebanese] prime minister Hariri and the pressures on Syria and on the resistance to comply [with Western demands].

"The second part is the failure of American occupation in Iraq.

"The third part is burying the peace process, and replacing it with the military option in order to subjugate Arabs and, as a natural result, to absolve Israel of all its obligations towards the Arabs. Faced with this tragic reality, the resistance movements emerged in the Arab arena as the only way to restore the usurped rights."

"There Will Come a Generation Which Will Be [Even] More Determined to Hit Israel and to Avenge its Past Actions; When That Time Comes, Israeli Children Will Pay the Price"

"After all that has been said, Israel should come to certain conclusions, but is seems that they are not assessing [the situation]; they did not [correctly] assess the situation and power of the resistance. It seems that when a person becomes very strong, he loses balance and cannot see reality rationally and accurately. Israel has tried for decades to be a part of this region through a scheme which was once called 'the Greater Middle East' - I don't know if this is the same as the 'New Middle East' or if it's the same [plan] with some modifications. But, [in any case], the [concept] is an old one: Israel is the dominant power in the Arab region and the Arabs are just slaves, [a source of] money, and satellites orbiting Israel. They relied on a basic assumption that each new Arab generation would accept Israel more than the previous one did, and would thus be more obedient. Therefore, it is just a matter of time, and time is on Israel's side! Let us examine the [actual] reality: if we assume that a generation is 15-20 years, I consider myself as representing the third generation since the occupation of Palestine. Now, some [members] of the fourth generation are present with us in this hall, they represent that portion of the youth that has become politically mature. The fact that Israel needs to realize is that each new generation will hate Israel more than the preceding generation.

"The word 'hatred' is not a good one; we do not hate or encourage people to hate, but Israel did not leave room for any feeling but hatred. For example, we have read about the massacre of Dir-Yassin and other massacres perpetrated by Israel against Arabs, but I and other members of my generation lived and witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacres and the first Qana massacre, and now we have witnessed the second Qana massacre. The fourth generation remembers the first Qana massacre and the second Qana massacre. Children now are asking 'why are those children dying?!' They are developing their awareness through the second Qana massacre. Therefore, Israel should know that time is not on its side. On the contrary, there will come a generation which will be [even] more determined to hit Israel and avenge all its past actions. When that time comes, Israeli children will pay the price."

"[Israel,] your Weapons, Warplanes, Rockets and Even Your Atomic Bombs Will Not Protect You in the Future… Future Generations of the Arab World Will Find the Way to Defeat Israel"

"I would like to speak about the reality we live in. If Israel wants to [engage in] analysis, it should analyze the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, the confrontations with the resistance in 1993 and 1996, and the last war. If they analyze these wars, they will notice that they represent the four generations. They will notice that the Arab fighter has become more determined, and that these battles and wars reflect the Arab attitude towards Israel. Therefore, we say to them: You have experienced humiliation in the recent battles in Lebanon. Your weapons, warplanes, rockets and even your atomic bombs will not protect you in the future. [New] generations are coming, and the future generations of the Arab world will find the way to defeat Israel in a fiercer manner. Thus, the Israeli leadership should stop its foolishness and arrogance, and should know that it is now standing at a historic juncture: it can either turn towards peace and restoration of rights, or it can [opt for] constant instability - until one of the future generations puts an end to this.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the heroic Lebanese national resistance has written in its blood and in its people's sacrifice an eternal epic in the history of our nation. It has destroyed the legend of [Israel's] invincible army, trampled under its feet the policy of surrender and humiliation, and proved that the power of faith in the land and in the homeland can defeat the power of weapons.

"I express my appreciation and admiration for the men of resistance; I salute with great reverence our noble martyrs and I salute the brotherly Lebanese people whose steadfastness was the incubator of this resistance.

"We say to those who accuse Syria of standing by the resistance - and this accusation is not at all a new one - that if [they think that] standing by the resistance is a mortal sin, then it is an honor and a source of pride for the Syrian people. This resistance is a badge of honor on the chest of each Arab citizen not only in Syria. Each drop of sweat, each drop of blood, each rocket that destroys a tank and each Israeli soldier defeated in Lebanon is... a badge of honor on the chest of the Arab citizens."

"[The Syrians] Were [Always] the Beating Heart of Arabism… and [This] Will Increase When We Liberate the Golan by Our Own Hands, Will and Determination"

"I would like to say to the Syrian Arab people that the word 'pride' is hardly sufficient to express what one feels towards the greatness of your support of our Lebanese brothers. You were great, when some people wanted you to look small and overwhelmed by the malevolence [of the enemy]. But the great people of Syria have always surprised the adversary in unexpected ways. You dealt a blow to those who wanted to create a division between Syria and Lebanon. You were magnificent in comprehending the magnitude of the conspiracy, and you were very strong in your reaction to this conspiracy. In brief, you were [always] the beating heart of Arabism in every sense of the word: the heat will intensify and the significance will increase when we liberate the Golan by our own hands, will and determination.

"Syria's destiny is to be proud of [its] Arabism and to defend and maintain it, because it is the only basis for building a bright and honorable future for our children. We have to plant in our hearts and minds [the idea] that there is a place in this world only for the strong. Strength starts in one's mind, will and faith, and this is the basis of resistance and the only way to achieve victory. However, waiting for others to solve our problems, putting our faith in the international community instead of relying on our own abilities, and yielding to fear and to the will of others is not only the opposite of wisdom but is absolute ignorance.

"I would like to repeat my salutations to the journalists, and I wish you every success in your conference. Thank you."

[1] SANA, August 18, 2006. The text has been edited for style.

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