In the sparse Baathist drawing rooms of Damascus, reality often seems a long way away. But it was a sign of the times that President Bashar al-Assad was able to bring the great and the good of Damascus to their feet by the simple token of telling the truth – which no other Arab leader has chosen to do these past five weeks: that the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla army has, in effect, won this round of their war with Israel.
There was plenty of hyperbole in the Assad speech. A conflict that has cost 1,000 Lebanese civilian lives can hardly be called a “glorious battle” but he did at least reflect more reality than his opposite number in Washington who, driven by self-delusion or his love of Israel, claimed that Hizbollah had been defeated in Lebanon.
Israel’s “victory” in Lebanon presumably has to be added to our own famous “victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria and Iran, according to Mr Bush, were responsible for the “suffering” of Lebanon – which contains the seeds of truth since Hizbollah provoked this war by capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three others on 12 July – although it wasn’t the Syrian or Iranian air force that was slaughtering the convoys of innocent refugee civilians in Lebanon. So it was that President Assad must have enjoyed his little peroration in Damascus yesterday.
Plus, Amira Hass calculates the Palestinian toll in the latest conflict.