• This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," July 30, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Israel's two-front conflict saw its heaviest fighting so far as a meeting of the United States, European and Arab countries failed to agree on a plan to end the violence.

    After meeting with world leaders in Rome, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Wednesday, warned Syria that it was time to make a choice about what role it will play in resolving the current conflict.


    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The question is whether Syria, which has obligations under Resolution 1559, intends to exercise those obligations in a way that leads to a fully sovereign Lebanon that can indeed control all of the means of — all of the armaments in its country. That is the question for the Syrian government.


    GIGOT: Does the road to peace run through Damascus?

    Joining me now from Beirut is Michael Young, opinion editor at Lebanon's "Daily Star" newspaper.

    Mr. Young, welcome.


    GIGOT: Is Hezbollah weaker or stronger, in your view, now, than it was two or so weeks ago when this fighting began?

    YOUNG: Well, I think it is weaker in the sense that militarily it has been forced back from the border area. But this is not really a military conflict as much as I think a political conflict.

    You have hundreds of thousands of Shiites who are on the streets, essentially refugees. The party’s bases have been attacked, and its military network, but also politically it has taken quite a beating in Lebanon. That does not mean, however, it has lost the battle. It can win the battle if its military forces remain more or less intact at the end of this.

    GIGOT: Let's talk a little bit about Syria, because you've watched Syria in its role in Lebanon for a long time. What is the Syrian role and how crucial is that role in supporting Hezbollah?

    YOUNG: The Syrian role in Lebanon is to, at this point, to re-arm the militia. Arms, from my reports, are continuing to cross the border to re- supply Hezbollah.

    Now, the Syrian role more generally, or what the Syrians would like their role to be, is to be a mediator in this conflict. So that they can essentially gain from the American side, while at the same time defending themselves or gaining cards on the Arab and the Iranian side, which essentially means they would like to put themselves in a position where they can get political cards without having to make any concessions.

    GIGOT: So, the Israeli attacks, militarily, on the roads and the airport and things and other transit routes are not cutting off the arms supplies? Is that what you're saying?

    YOUNG: Well, my understanding is that the arms supplies are continuing. And indeed, the Israelis, while they have said that they've attacked arms convoys, you know, that's a very porous boarder and my suspicion — and what I've heard, as I said — is that arms are continuing.

    GIGOT: Well, a year ago the Syrian army, to great international fanfare, left Lebanon under international pressure as a result of the investigation into the assassination of formerPrime Minister Rafik Hariri.

    But that investigation seems to have vanished. We no longer read about it. What happened to that probe, and is it still a factor politically?