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Sunday, August 20, 2006

UN Secretary General Annan on the hot seat

UN Secretary General Kofi Goofy Annan has had a rough weekend already. On Friday night, IDF commandos conducted a raid on the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek, where they thwarted a Syrian arms delivery to Hezbullah. Annan, whose toothless UN troops 'will not wage war' in Lebanon, condemned the Israeli attack and claimed that it violated the hudna, but Annan had nothing to say about the rearming of Hezbullah by Syria and Iran.

The Euroweenies also became the target of Annan's wrath yesterday, as Fwance, which is supposed to lead the 'international force,' sent fifty (count 'em) troops to Lebanon yesterday:
While states such as Bangladesh and Nepal are already committed to sending troops, the leading European countries with the best-equipped armies and logistics operations have been slow to respond to Annan's urgent pleas for personnel.

Saturday's raid by the IDF near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, purportedly to prevent arms deliveries to Hezbollah, is not expected to make the UNIFIL recruitment operation any easier.

Aides to Annan envision a three-stage scenario for recruiting reinforcement for UNIFIL, to be completed within 10 to 12 weeks. In the first stage, efforts will be made to send a contingent of 3,500 soldiers to southern Lebanon by August 28. A month later, a few thousand more troops will be sent, and by late October the full complement of 15,000 should be deployed.

In the first report on the cease-fire he submitted to the Security Council, Annan said Friday that UNIFIL would not wage war against Israel, Lebanon or Hezbollah. He reiterated his request that member states provide "desperately needed soldiers" for the UN peace force.

"It is not expected to achieve by force what must be realized through negotiation and an internal Lebanese consensus," Annan told the Security Council. [Translation: 'We won't disarm Hezbullah.' CiJ]

UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown, who is in charge of recruiting reinforcements to UNIFIL, emphasized the force's policing mandate.

"It is not an offensive force," Brown said. "It's not going to go in there and attempt large-scale disarmament. Rather it is going to police the political agreement that triggers disarmament, called for under the resolution, and therefore it will make a prudent use of force."

The Lebanese Army continued Saturday to redeploy along the country's border with Israel. Brigade 10 reached villages close to the Israeli border in the west, including Shaba and Al-Hiam. Approximately three battalions were deployed along Lebanon's northern border with Syria in an effort to prevent cross-border smuggling. [What they're not telling you here is that the Lebanese army has not yet deployed in any villages that are real Hezbullah strongholds. You haven't seen Bint Jbeil mentioned here. They're supposed to enter the first Hezbullah strongholds today, so today is a crucial day. CiJ]

The redeployments are coordinated with UNIFIL and with the Israel Defense Forces. By arrangement, the IDF is withdrawing from areas where UNIFIL is deployed, with the Lebanese Army taking over afterward. There were reports over the weekend of IDF forces penetrating a few kilometers into Lebanese territory, where they arrested a young Lebanese man and raided the home of a religious leader.

Britain's Guardian newspaper published a report Saturday, based on sources close to senior Lebanese Army officials, that the army has agreed with Hezbollah that any weapons the militia displays in public would be confiscated. The army does not intend to raid homes to search for arms, however.

"The army knows there is a gun in every household, they are not going to go out and look for them ... What we are concerned about is the launchers. There is an agreement with Hezbollah that any weapons found will be handed over," retired general Nizar Abdel-Kader, a former deputy chief of staff for army personnel who is in close communication with the army command, told the Guardian. [You can assume that none of the Hezbullah supporters in the south will be removing the 'launcher rooms' from their houses. CiJ]

According to reports at UN headquarters, Italy has promised to send a large number of troops to UNIFIL. France, meanwhile, was roundly criticized on Friday for backing out its commitment of troops to the force.
Annan has other problems. One of the reasons that he's trying to pressure the Europeans is that Israel has objected to the presence of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia in the 'peacekeeping force,' because they don't recognize Israel's 'right to exist.' Malaysia has volunteered to send up to 1000 troops and Indonesia has volunteered to send a battalion. Annan needs the Europeans to be part of the 'force' so that he won't have to turn to so many Muslim countries.

Al-AP reports that at a meeting of 49 potential troop contributing nations on Thursday, the only countries to offer mechanized infantry battalions, which will be the front line of the expanded force, were three Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel - Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia - and Nepal, which is predominantly Hindu.


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