Closing the Doors

"An editorial in the Syrian government daily Al-Ba’th, titled "International Force or New Occupation?" read: "Whoever thinks that the presence of international forces on Lebanese soil is the solution is wrong – since these forces, in the eyes of the resistance fighters and in the nationalist and pan-Arab view, would be occupation forces, like the forces that have occupied Iraq and other places in the world.

"As long as [the international forces] are of this type, it will be necessary for the forces facing Israel in southern Lebanon, the Arab brothers, and those friends in the world who stand alongside the resistance to put up resistance against them and to clash with them, [and this will be done] through various means and methods. Whoever puts his trust in the [idea that] destruction, murder, and even occupation can impose solutions that violate sovereignty and national honor – he is wrong."(1)

In an editorial in the Teshreen daily, Izz Al-Din Darwish wrote: "What is the meaning of an international force? The meaning is the subjugation of Lebanon to Israel’s will and placing it before the potential of a renewed civil war. [It would also mean] the removal of the reasons for living in southern Lebanon in which these forces would be stationed – this in light of the reports that are filtering in, according to which Israel is placing a condition that it be the one who will decide who will be allowed to live in the south and who will not. In addition, it is demanding that these international forces [be deployed] in the greater part of the southern territories, to a depth of 30 kilometers. "  MEMRI


Yes.  Yes.  I know.  MEMRI.  I got it.

Nevertheless, if these translations are correct, then the chance that existed for the US and Israel to make a deal with Syria is now gone.

Pat Lang

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30 Responses to Closing the Doors

  1. Frank Durkee says:

    How does this relate to the rumours that the US is pushing Isreal to attack Syria?

  2. b says:

    Unless Israel offers the Golan Heights. Syria would probably take that deal, but I doubt the Israelis would ever make that offer.

  3. billmon says:

    “if these translations are correct, then the chance that existed for the US and Israel to make a deal with Syria is now gone.”
    Not necessarily, but it IS a reminder to the Anglo-Israeli axis that it WILL have to make a deal with Syria if it wants a multinational force in Southern Lebanon. But since Team Clueless has already made it clear it won’t do that under any circumstances, the point is moot.
    So now what?

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    As you probably know, a common device in negotiations is to lay down positions as hypothetical and argue them over on that basis.
    In that way, if the thing fall through, you can claim that you never offered that. pl

  5. jonst says:

    Did you see this article yet?
    A link to it was posted on Billmon’s site. And he highlighted the ‘money shot’.
    “It was never possible to “win in Iraq” so long as we insisted on fighting in Iraq alone”
    While later he offers contradictory language I think this gets to the heart of the matter. And to where the neo-cons are going to try and take us. And I suspect they will be successful.
    It will be up to the military to stop them. Not in sense of refusing orders. But in the sense of institutional self preservation. The congress won’t. The media, mainstream anyway, won’t. The people? I have my doubts. So who? The entity that has the most to lose. In the short run anyway.

  6. canuck says:

    UN postpones meeting to plan new Lebanon force
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations on Monday indefinitely postponed a meeting called by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to begin planning a new peacekeeping force for Lebanon, setting back hopes for a quick end to the bloodshed.
    more at Reuters
    Comment: Second thoughts from countries after UNIFIL bombed, and knowing Olmert is just using a multinational force as an excuse to not enter into a ceasefire. I highly doubt there are countries who are willing to deploy troops to what amounts to a suicide mission in the Middle East. Israel has no respect for UN or its forces and it stretches their credibility to the breaking point to imagine they have had an epiphany that would cause them to place trust in UN forces at this late date.
    Stalemate–the ball is now back in Israel’s and Rice’s court. What is Plan C that would end the violence?

  7. canuck says:

    UN postpones meeting to plan new Lebanon force
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations on Monday indefinitely postponed a meeting called by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to begin planning a new peacekeeping force for Lebanon, setting back hopes for a quick end to the bloodshed.
    more at Reuters
    Comment: Second thoughts from countries after UNIFIL bombed, and knowing Olmert is just using a multinational force as an excuse to not enter into a ceasefire. I highly doubt there are countries who are willing to deploy troops to what amounts to a suicide mission in the Middle East. Israel has no respect for UN or its forces and it stretches their credibility to the breaking point to imagine they have had an epiphany that would cause them to place trust in UN forces at this late date.
    Stalemate–the ball is now back in Israel’s and Rice’s court. What is Plan C that would end the violence?

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Israel DID offer a return of the GH in the straw man that was at the heart of the Barak period negotiations.
    Billmon – I think that Syria would have a hard time backing away from this position taken in its official press. pl

  9. jonst says:

    When you get a moment could you explain what you meant be “straw man”? Are you implying Barak not serious about this, the GH aspect of the deal. Or about all aspects of the deal?
    Just curious. No strong feeling on my part one way or another. Don’t have enough knowledge on the particular subject.

  10. Dan O'Donnell says:

    Like jonst, I’ll put the following into the comment thread just because it may add to understanding the position of one of the principals and not because I have a position.
    In a published interview with a western journalist on 14 June 2006 and in response to a question (paraphrase) “What would it take for the United States to negotiate with Syria?”, President Al-Assad replied:
    The most important thing, our occupied land, Golan Heights. The United States should take into consideration that we see everything in Syria through our occupied land. Without talking about peace process, in order to get this land back, what the benefit of this relation?
    President Al-Assad followed that with another comment:
    I think after the 11th of September, which was a very tough lesson, not to the United States people, to everybody in this world, first of all, you should learn more about what’s going on behind the ocean, all over the world. You should send more people, more delegations to meet with other cultures to discuss with them, to know the facts, not to be isolated away from the rest of the world.
    The Syrian president also commented several times about Syria’s attempts to cooperate with the US viz. al Qaeda and against terrorism immediately post-9/11. He said that eventually that broke down due to US’ “mistakes“. The Pres. seemed to emphasize this in the interview. I think Bill Arkin has commented on that as well.

  11. Dan O'Donnell says:

    What is the agenda of MEMRI that evokes the comment “yes I know”?

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    They are often accused of being a tool of the neocons but so far as I am concerned a translation is either accurate or it is not. the issue of their selection of texts I can deal with. pl

  13. ckrantz says:

    Why should syria give away something for nothing. Unless the israelis are prepaired to give away the golans and the US are prepared to give economic and security guarantees why do anything if your enemy is destroying himself?
    It’s certainly ironic that syria and hizbollahs hand have actually been strengthened but it says something about the people doing the strategic planning for this war.
    The only possible solution would be a Madrid type of conference with all issues on the table and with all regional players. Of course that will not happen with the current administration. Much like the recommendations by Brent Scowcroft in sundays WaPo.

  14. canuck says:

    More text of Syria’s resistance to a UN deployment
    Hmm … Israel isn’t the only Middle East country that is suspicious of a UN multinational force. A MNF could end up being shot or bombed by more than one foe.
    Regardless of whether there is or isn’t a MNF as part of the ceasefire, it’s shaping up that the US increasingly will have to open talks with Syria. Israel didn’t deliver a victory and unless something changes soon, I expect the demands that will be on the table will include more of Nasrallah’s than Israel and the United States would have liked to include.
    Colonel, please remove one of my double posts and please accept my apologies for making them.

  15. zanzibar says:

    The conflict continues. No cease-fire says Olmert. No international force say the Syrians stating that such a force will not be policing a two-way street and will only focus on the Lebanese side of the equation. No one really willing to pony up troops for such a force. No visit to Beirut for Condi without cease-fire say the Lebanese government. One month to stop uranium enrichment says the UNSC to Iran. Sistani warns of dire consequences if no Lebanese cease-fire. Dead and maimed civilians everywhere. And the world’s only superpower fiddling while the ME burns!

  16. zanzibar says:

    “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political-security cabinet voted in the early hours of Tuesday morning to expand Israel’s ground operation in south Lebanon.
    Under the plan, and similar to last week’s operation carried out in Bint Jbail, IDF forces will mount raids on villages that have served as Hezbollah bases. The plan was presented to Olmert during meetings held Saturday with Defense Minister Amir Peretz and defense establishment heads.
    The cabinet voted nearly unanimously in favor of the plan, with none opposed and one abstention.”
    So is this Phase II or second try at “crushing” Hizballah with similar tactics? And will this version achieve more than the last version?

  17. confusedponderer says:

    A brief article on MEMRI from the (admittedly left) guardian. Still, it makes a point about the selection of articles at MEMRI.,7792,773258,00.html
    In brief, one of MEMRI’s heads, Carmon, spent 22 years in Israeli military intelligence and later served as counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli prime ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin. A high profile guy.
    It’s not unlikely that MEMRI is an outsourced influence shop to form opinion. The point is not that they translate wrongly, but, as PL hinted on, the selection of what they choose to translate.
    It’s declared mission is to provide ‘timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media’. AFAIK their translation are primarily Arab and Farsi to English.
    So yes, MEMRI is interesting, but don’t expect them to offer you a complete picture.

  18. Mac Nayeri says:

    Sistani has issued a statement on Qana –

  19. Minnesotachuck says:

    For what it’s worth, Soldiers for the Truth, not exactly a knee-jerk lefty website, is flying a “Set General Quarters” banner at the top of their home page. It is based on Juan Cole’s exegesis of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s latest statement in which he threatens action in Iraq in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
    The banner passes along two of Cole’s reasons for concern: “(1) because up to now, Sistani has been supportive of the US efforts in Iraq, and (2) because Sistani’s history is that he does not make idle threats.” There was also a third that did not lend itself to a succinct bullet point, but may be far more compelling: “Sistani is taking such a hard line on this issue not only because he feels strongly about it (his fatwa against the Jenin operation of 2002 was vehement) but also because he is in danger of being outflanked by Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army is said to be “boiling” over the Israeli war on Hizbullah, since after all the Sadrists are also fundamentalist Shiites and they identify with the Lebanese Hizbullah. There have already been big demonstrations in Baghdad against the Israeli attacks, to which Sadrists flocked but probably also other Shiites. . . Sistani cannot allow Muqtada to monopolize this issue, or the young cleric’s legitimacy will grow among the angry Shiite masses at the expense of Sistani’s.”

  20. John in LA says:

    Interesting piece here on the limits of air power alone.
    “…over-reliance on air power can make it impossible to achieve equally important political goals — such as weaning the civilian population away from groups like Hezbollah.
    “…The consequences of failing such a test, as at Qana, include a loss of support for Israel in the international community and the galvanizing of support inside Lebanon and throughout the region for Hezbollah…”

  21. confusedponderer says:

    Let me correct myself on MEMRI: They have a clear allegiance, and they act on their own convictions – in synergy with presumable Israeli state interests. Thus, it is not to far fetched that MEMRI at times very willingly lends them a helping hand to get a partuicular message out.

  22. b says:

    Just for the record on the Qana bombing, aka Israels excuse “Hizbullah hiding behind civilians”:
    /quote/As the Israel Air Force continues to investigate the air strike, questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident.
    It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.
    The Israel Defense Forces had said after the deadly air-strike that many rockets had been launched from Qana. However, it changed its version on Monday.
    The site was included in an IAF plan to strike at several buildings in proximity to a previous launching site. Similar strikes were carried out in the past. However, there were no rocket launches from Qana on the day of the strike./unquote/
    Some reports said 80 bomb raids hit Qana that day. Essentially Israel is clensing south Lebanon – destroy what ever is there.

  23. b says:

    On Syria and its position may I recommend Joshua Landis blog “”. Landis is an assistant professor of Middle Eastern studies and has until recently lived in Syria.
    His recent interview is very interesting, especially on why Hizbullah has (to have) arms.

  24. MarcLord says:

    Hizbullah is a legitimate, elected political party now. When the IRA got official parliamentary representation in the form of Sinn Fein, it became possible, over time, to effectively negotiate with them. Unless Israel is prepared to kill every Shiite across the span of three countries, Hizbullah can’t be extinguished. The cat is out of the parliamentary bag, and it must eventually be negotiated with on an official basis, whether Lebanon is partitioned or not.
    Luckily, the Neocons control the Pentagon and the IDF. They’re such a comfort in my dotage, they’ll bring things ’round all right. I wonder, can a nuclear war be contained to just the Mideast?

  25. wtofd says:

    From Stratfor:
    Gen. Dan Halutz, chief of staff of the IDF and architect of that air campaign, was hospitalized for the second time July 31, complaining of stomach pains. Should Halutz go out of commission, his deputy, Moshe Kaplinsky, will take command. Kaplinsky is drawn from army, having commanded the Golani Brigade, with long experience in Lebanon. This brings expertise on ground warfare to the top spot in the IDF, particularly in combined infantry-armored operations in Lebanon.
    PL, if this change of command happens do you see it as a benefit to Israel?
    Also, Stratfor offers this map to show how far back Hizballah must be pushed to keep Tel Aviv and Jerusalem safe. As you can see this line is to the north of Tripoli, almost into Syria. Is this possible? Is this extension of the IDF desirable?

  26. m.hasan says:

    *Regarding Memri
    In August 12, 2002, Brian Whitaker wrote in the Guardian an article titled “selective Memri”, where he investigated the people behind Memri and their background, relations and connections, finance, nature of their selections from Arab media, accuracy of translations, and other aspects.,,4480174-105806,00.html
    Yigal Carmon, Memri’s president, responded. Colonel Carmon spent 22 years in Israeli military intelligence and later worked as counter-terrorism adviser to 2 Israeli PM, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin.
    The debate between Whittaker and Carmon continued through emails. See the following link:,,884156,00.html
    There is also a page for Memri and the controversy surrounding it in Wikipedia with background, relevant links.
    Finally, I recommend this article by Whitaker in the Guardian on September 28, 2005 , titled “Language Matters”. He writes about a new online translation service which monitors more than 50 Arabic and farsi publications . It provides a far more balanced view of the Arabic press. See :,,5296451-105806,00.html
    * Other related matters
    My impression is that those people at influential positions in the administration and the state department do not have an accurate picture of the Arab world and its culture. It appears to me that they mainly depend in this regard on the Israelis and those Israeli “experts” are giving them a distorted and biased view. I remember an attack 2 years ago launched by Israeli supporters in the USA on anyone in departments of ME studies in the American Universities who dared to deviate from the Israeli view.If Americans depend on Memri then the sure conclusion will be that all Arabs and all Muslims are subhuman creatures and are all terrorists and that they deserve to be annihilated.
    Being an Egyptian, I watch Aljazeera frequently. It invites numerous guests from allover the world for interviews and to give different perspectives and opinions of current events. Aljazeera usually gives instant translations but some foreign guests speak Arabic and they choose to express themselves in Arabic rather than in their original tongue. I was astonished that the best guests who can express themselves in fluent Arabic are the Russians followed by the French. On the other hand British and American officials from the Foreign Ministry and the state department who try to express themselves in Arabic are awful. I got the impression that those officials learned the language from books with minimal direct contact with people in Arab countries. 2 months ago, a team from Aljazeera visited China and numerous programs were broadcast live from there for one week. Honestly, I was surprised by the competence of the Chinese who speak Arabic and there are many of them. Most of them lived for years in the Arab world . One can easily discern that this one lived in Egypt and that one in Syria and a third in Lebanon or Morocco from the way of speaking. It is obvious that they are not kidding and are taking things seriously.
    Let me give you a second example . Hassan Nasrallah who is at the moment the most important person in the Arab and Islamic world, gave 4 speeches and one long interview with Aljazeera in the last 2 or 3 weeks. I searched exhaustively for the full English translation of transcripts of those speeches but to no avail. one can find selected paragraphs but no complete transcripts. Exceptions are some Arabic sites that have an English version of their website and some of the speeches can be found on DailyKos but again translated by some Arab or Persian person. This man (Nasrallah)is leading and commanding a fierce battle with the strongest army in the area (some consider the IDF the fourth strongest military power in the world and I am not sure of this but it is a common saying anyway). He is commanding the battle both on the political and the military level. I would expect to find analysis for the tactics and strategy of this man based on what he says. I read that some Israelis believe Nasrallah more than their leaders. I would expect someone like you or someone like billmon to give me some analysis but there is nothing at all. I have to go now.

  27. Semanticleo says:

    I’m afraid I disagree that the chance for an agreement is gone.
    Arab culture consists mainly of merchants. They negotiate,
    they barter, they do what they must do in order to survive.
    Their allegiance to principle is nearly always subjugated by pragmatism. When they recognize they can get more than they currently have, or at least keep what they have permanently, they will negotiate.

  28. With respect to the MEMRI issue, I would draw attention to my own home blog, (but not my work, a colleague’s work) on MEMRI’s quite queer editing and translation of the Wafaa Sultan video. See our Wafa Sultan: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – The Full Sultan Jazeera Transcript (which includes a PDF download).
    I would suggest that this fits the Brain Whitaker of the Guardian critique of MEMRI (and certainly my own observations as a consumer of Arabic media – working in region in private sector).
    That has, of course, only tangential value on the core subject, but I thought it worth adding.
    Full disclosure: Whitaker is a sometime commentator at ‘Aqoul and I believe has recommended us. I believe this was after our somewhat silly article on romance novels and MENA imagery by another colleague.
    The Lounsbury,

  29. ckrantz says:

    I wonder what the reaction will be to the israeli raid on baalbek? And shouldn’t there have been a preemptive raid on the syrian air defences also since they cover the valley if I remember correctly. Unless the israeli knew the syrians wouldn’t act?

  30. parvati_roma says:

    For Hezbollah’s actual position on ceasefire, UN force and disarmament, see
    today’s interview in Le Figaro with Hezbollah member Trad Hamadé, Lebanon’s Minister of Labour
    ( ):
    (my translation)
    Q. – Does Hezbollah support the idea of an international stabilisation force to be deployed in Southern Lebanon?
    A. – “The Lebanese government and Hezbollah will not agree to negotiate under fire while the occupation continues. We demand an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops. After that, Hezbollah will be willing to discuss with the international community the deployment of a force, its mandate, its manpower and its means. But this force must resolve the problems still unsettled and not create others. After Qana, Hezbollah maintains its support to the plan presented by Siniora [Lebanese PM] for resolving the conflict, a plan which is close to that being defended by France [in the UNSC]. International convergence is necessary to induce the USA to agree to an immediate ceasefire.”
    Q. – Supporting Siniora’s plan means accepting that the Lebanese government must regain its sovereignty over the whole of the country. Does this mean Hezbollah agrees to be disarmed?
    A. – “The first point is correct. As regards the disarmament of Hezbollah, this depends on the national defence strategy that will be chosen after the war when the various political parties as a whole resume the national dialogue. If the result is that they then define a defence system based on the Lebanese army, without Hezbollah’s arms, we have no problem with that. We have no special passion for weapons. We would rather pray than make war. The question of our weaponry is not an untouchable issue. Our weapons do not constitute an end in themselves. Their aim is to resist against Israel. When the Lebanese prisoners in Israel will have been freed and the Israelis will have withdrawn from the Shebaa Farms, the liberating role of Hezbollah’s resistance will be over. It will then be necessary to determine what would be the best deterrence against Israeli violations of our airspace. This deterrent capability will be defined in Lebanon’s defence strategy.”
    For the Muslim world’s attitude, see:
    “Muslim Leaders Call For Lebanon Ceasefire, Peacekeeping Force”

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