Bush Calls for Lasting Middle East Cease-Fire, End of Status Quo
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 31, 2006 The current Middle East crisis between Israel and Hezbollah is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and terror, President Bush said today in Miami.
“For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive,” Bush said during a speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Integrated Support Command. “And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change.”
Bush said America must continue to oppose terrorism by promoting democracy across the broader Middle East. “This task is long, it is difficult work, but it is necessary work,” he said.
The advance of democracy will give the people of the region a brighter future, will help eliminate terrorist safe havens and make the U.S. more secure, he said.
The president said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent trip to the region has helped calm the situation. “She is working urgently to get a sustainable cease-fire--a cease-fire which will last,” he said.
The United States is working toward a U.N. resolution to end the violence and lay the groundwork for a lasting peace accord, Bush said. He highlighted the importance for the international community to remember that the current conflict began with the actions of Hezbollah.
“As we work with friends and allies, it is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah's unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel,” he said. “Israel is exercising its right to defend itself.”
Hezbollah – Arabic for “Party of God” – is a Lebanese terror group inspired by the Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. The group was founded in 1982 with the goal getting Israeli troops to withdraw from southern Lebanon, which they eventually did in 2000. Hezbollah consists of political and military wings, and its formidable influence in Lebanon is often likened to a “state within a state.” Hezbollah reportedly is backed financially by Iran and Syria.
The tensions between Israel and Hezbollah escalated when Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers July 12. The terror group then fired numerous rockets on northern Israeli cities and towns, causing Israeli troops to reenter southern Lebanon in an effort to stop the rocket attacks.
The president stressed that clear objectives must be achieved before a workable peace can take root. For instance, Lebanon’s democratically elected government must exercise sole authority over its territory, and Iran and Syria must end their support of terrorism and respect Lebanon’s national sovereignty, he said.
“This approach will make it possible what so many around the world want to see: the end of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, the return of the Israeli soldiers taken hostage by the terrorists, the suspension of Israel's operations in Lebanon, and the eventual withdrawal of Israeli forces,” he said.
Later in the day, Bush spoke about today’s U.N. resolution that calls on Iran to quit its nuclear program by Aug. 31 or face sanctions. He said the resolution was proof that America and its allies can achieve diplomatic objectives.
“The Iranians must hear loud and clear with this resolution the world is intent upon working together to make sure that they do not end up with a nuclear weapon or the know-how to build a nuclear weapon,” Bush said.