Another great UN contribution to peace and security
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both slam France today for what the NYT calls its “bait-and-switch tactics” in pushing for a robust 15,000-strong French-led UN force in south Lebanon to end the fighting and disarm Hezbollah, and then turning around and pledging only 400 troops to contribute to the force. The WSJ adds some unflattering remarks about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being so gullible as to take at face value French pledges of assistance. The Sunday Times beats them both by observing that “[t]here are few more regular — or entertaining — sights than French statesmen indulging in grandiose statements of political and philosophical intent, and then proceeding to do absolutely nothing…. [T]he French are past masters at saying one thing and doing quite another. And they are all the more reliable for that.”
While I admit to being a little surprised about the brazenness of the French volte-face, I’m not surprised at all to see that UNIFIL – the UN force that’s been “temporarily” posted to maintain the peace in south Lebanon since 1978, through civil war, PLO and Syrian occupation, terrorist attacks, de facto Hezbollah takeover and Israeli invasions – is going to fail once again to maintain the peace.
(Apropos maintaining the peace, former peace negotiator Dennis Ross has an inadvertently comical piece in the Washington Post in which he urges engaging Syria in order to create an “enduring cease-fire” in south Lebanon like the enduring cease-fire Ross negotiated in 1993, and then again in 1996 when the enduring 1993 cease-fire broke down. With apologies to Mark Twain, it seems that bringing lasting peace to south Lebanon is the easiest thing in the world to do. Dennis Ross has done it thousands of times.)
UN forces have an abysmal record regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and UNIFIL may hold pride of place (although I would vote for UNEF withdrawing from the Sinai in order to pave the way for the Six Day War in 1967). UNIFIL forces not only sat passively by when Hezbollah used UN-marked vehicles to kidnap three Israeli soldiers October 7, 2000 in an event that served as the prelude to this year’s July 12 kidnapping, they filmed the event and then lied about it, hiding the tapes from Israel. And Kofi Annan, after a friendly meeting with Hezbollah chieftan Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in 2000, pronounced that “[t]he cooperation [with Hezbollah] has always been good and we want to maintain it.”
Now, although disarming Hezbollah, especially south of the Litani River, is perhaps the key part of Security Council Resolution 1701, Kofi Annan has hastened to explain that disarming Hezbollah is not part of the “direct mandate” of UNIFIL; rather, UNIFIL will back up the Lebanese army, which, according to the Lebanese government “won’t be deployed to south Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah.” Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown later clarified that “I think we have been very clear on that, [UNIFIL] is not going to be a force … of offensive effort to disarm Hezbullah.”
What then is UNIFIL going to accomplish with the handful of troops at its disposal? Given the prominence in the force of states like Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh that do not recognize Israel, and the refusal to take any action to disarm Hezbollah or prevent its rearmament, UNIFIL is likely to preside over a cease-fire as enduring as any of Dennis Ross’s. That is, it will patiently observe as Hezbollah redeploys back into south Lebanon, brings in new weaponry from Iran via Syria, and trains for its next attacks on Israel.
Get ready for the next round of fighting as soon as Hezbollah and its masters in Tehran feel ready.