"Lebanon in the Regional Game of Occupation"
 By: General Michel Aoun
 (Translated by: Elias Bejjani)
 17 July 1998

 Syrian President Hafez al-Assad is scheduled to give a significant speech today at the end of his recent three-day visit to France. This coincides with the commemoration of a previous speech in which he unveiled the Syrian decision to send troops into Lebanon in 1976.
 On this occasion, we dream that Mr. Assad will announce a decision to withdraw his troops from Lebanon after having accomplished his declared mission of "restoring peace and sovereignty" to this threatened and tortured country.
 Such a decision will be in the interests of all parties involved in the Middle East crisis, as well as those engaged in efforts to promote a longstanding peace settlement. It will confirm the credibility of the Syrian regime, both in its own eyes and in the eyes of the whole world. Syria will be portrayed as an element of stability in the Middle East.
 Abiding by the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 520 calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon (sooner or later) will lift Syria into the ranks of countries that respect the law. It will also change its international status from a country accused of territorial expansionism and terrorism, to a status that enables it to point out with fairness those who do not respect international covenants and resolutions.
 By withdrawing from Lebanon, Syria will be able to foster an internationally positive stance, whereas maintaining its occupation of a "sister" country (Lebanon) puts it in a very weak legal position for two transgressions: first, against the Arab League Charter and second, against the United Nations charter. Syria will get no credit for claiming that the people of Lebanon requested the occupation of their country. Such a claim is considered automatically invalid because nobody made such a request. Even if such a request was in fact made, it occurred after the the Syrian invasion took place as an effort to compromise with an already established occupation force.
 I said "we dream" because we wish to have a normal relationship with Syria, provided its regime proves its intentions towards us.
 On the other hand, if Syria does not implement UN Resolution 520, this gives Israel a simple, clear and straightforward justification for remaining in the Golan Heights. The simple equation is this: if occupation of land and sovereignty is permissible between "brother countries", then why can it not be so among enemies?
 It would have been fully understandable if Israel had occupied our land and used it as a hostage chip to impose a solution on Syria. But what is incomprehensible is for Syria to keep Lebanon hostage to give Israel the justification to keep its occupation of a Syrian land. We are afraid that coordinated Syrian-Israeli attempts to hinder any kind of withdrawal of troops from Lebanon is a planned, mutual conspiracy to normalize both occupations through the passage of time.
 The Lebanese cause is fair, clear, and extremely simple. Accordingly, the media and some international communities are complicating it in order to camouflage their devious pursuits. We are fed up with the circuses held around the graves of our martyrs. Dear fellow Lebanese: wake up and call for the implementation of UN Resolution 520.