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Thursday, August 16, 2007

UN refuses to expand UNIFIL role

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the UN Security Council is about to reject an Israeli request to expand UNIFIL's role in Lebanon so that it actually could become an effective force. The UN fears endangering its troops. You remember, those are the same troops that don't patrol at night....
Israel wants UNIFIL troops to be granted new rules of engagement against the guerilla group, in which the peacekeeping force would be given the green light to take a more 'proactive' role against Hizbullah and expand its field of operations from open areas to cities and towns. Israel also asked that UNIFIL troops be allowed to open fire against Hizbullah operatives, and not only after they are fired upon.

According to the report, the Security Council will reject the request due to safety concerns for its personnel on the ground in southern Lebanon. The mandate of the 13,600-strong UN peacekeeping force is due to expire at the end of August.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already urged the Security Council to extend the mandate in a letter to the council president last week.
Captain Ed seems surprised at this:

Got that? The UN and the global community demanded that Israel withdraw from the conflict so that they could deploy peacekeepers and enforce 1701 and 1559, both of which demanded an end to arms in southern Lebanon except for regular Lebanese military forces. Israel withdrew -- they hadn't done a very good job of fighting until that point anyway -- and allowed the peacekeepers back into the sub-Litani region. The UN forces then promptly returned to their previous policy of looking askance while Syria re-armed Hezbollah back to pre-war levels.

Israel, under the impression that the UN actually wanted to achieve its stated goals, then asked for ROEs that would accomplish the mission. That would mean that the UN would have to take action against Hezbollah, and probably against Syria as well, by attacking supply routes and destroying weapons emplacements. These were the actions Israel was taking, especially in the last weeks of last summer's engagement, that would have effectively met the stated goals of the UNIFIL deployment.

But the UN doesn't want to do it. Why? Because it would be "too risky" for their personnel. Maybe they should have thought of that before sticking their nose into southern Lebanon in the first place. Instead, the UN has acted as the personal bodyguards of terrorists and the governments that support and arm them. They haven't acted as peacekeepers; they've acted as guarantors of a future, genocidal war against Israel.

I have to say that I am surprised at Captain Ed because he's an awfully smart guy. Israel was never under the impression that UNIFIL wanted to achieve its stated goals. Our foreign minister doesn't understand enough English to know what she was agreeing to accept in Resolution 1701. The problems with its rules of engagement were obvious from the start:

The problem with 1701 from the get go has been that it is not self-executing with respect to disarming Hezbullah. As Barry Rubin noted back in August:
But the central contradiction in the document is between OP11 and OP12. OP11 basically makes UNIFIL action dependent on the Lebanese government asking for help. In other words, only if the government asks UNIFIL to fight against terrorists in southern Lebanon or interdict arms smuggling can it act.

It should be noted that the Lebanese armed forces are a polite fiction. Just as Hizbullah is part of the government coalition, it has also deeply infiltrated the army. Half or even more of the soldiers sympathize with Hizbullah and will not do anything to - as they think of it - "protect" Israel from attack. It is not a highly disciplined military with a reliable chain of command. If a Lebanese soldier fires at Hizbullah, the entire army could split into two warring factions, something the government and politicians will want to avoid at any cost.

Yet OP12 says UNIFIL can take "all necessary action" in its area of deployment to fulfill its mission. This could be interpreted, for example, to mean that the UNIFIL units will attack terrorists south of the Litani without being explicitly asked to do so by the Lebanese government. Everything depends on who will command UNIFIL and what its rules of engagement are going to be. Will it honestly report violations or just look the other way? Will it only do what the Lebanese government expressly asks or take action to prevent cross-border attacks?

A lot will also depend on what strategy Hizbullah adapts and what Damascus and Teheran urge it to do. There is no chance of Hizbullah being destroyed, disarmed or moderated. But it can choose how high a profile it will have.
For those who have forgotten what 1701 really says, you can go here to remind yourselves.

Yet in March, seven months after I dissected 1701 and blogged Rubin's article, foreign minister Tzipi Feigele Livni, who must have been at least one of the Israelis Captain Ed had in mind, was still convinced that UNIFIL had a broad enough mandate and just wasn't using it:
She also said that while "there is evidence that Hizbullah's freedom of action has been restricted" in south Lebanon, "UNIFIL forces have not always adequately utilized the robust mandate and authority granted to them to ensure, in conjunction with the LAF [Lebanese Army], that the south is free of armed groups, assets and weapons and is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind‚ as stipulated in [Security Council] Resolution 1701."

Livni's comments came as Israeli officials have said that UNIFIL would like a more aggressive mandate that would allow it to act more independently in engaging Hizbullah.

Livni told the EU foreign ministers there was an absence of any significant steps to disarm and dismantle Hizbullah, as required by the UN Security Council resolution, and that this was compounded by "the failure to effectively implement the arms embargo" against the organization.

"Recent months have seen intensive efforts at rearmament by Hizbullah, particularly across the Syria-Lebanon border, with weapons supplied by Damascus and Teheran in direct violation of Resolution 1701," she said.
Yes, even in March, Feigele still didn't understand that 1701 does not require UNIFIL or the UN or anyone else to 'disarm and dismantle Hezbullah.

By mid-March, UNIFIL woke up to the reality that it's mandate was emasculated and asked that it be changed. But by then it was too late.

The time to seek a robust mandate for UNIFIL was last August when Israeli troops were sitting in South Lebanon and 1701 was being negotiated. Israel's inept foreign minister didn't understand what was going on at the UN and that opportunity was lost. Israel's Prime Minister continues to deceive himself that 1701 was an achievement and not an unmitigated disaster. A year later, Israel is in no position to force changes unless it is willing to initiate another war, in which it would be at an even greater disadvantage than it was last summer.

One final note on this post - any of you who were not reading this blog last summer are strongly advised to follow all the links. They will add greatly to your understanding of what happened last summer in Lebanon.


At 7:45 PM, Blogger HEADJANITOR said...

UNIFIL is not going to act in Israel's favor whether they have a mandate or not. 1701 was and is, as you say, an "unmitigated disaster". What is disasterous about it, however, is neither the content nor the meaning of that worthless document, but the fact that Israel's inept leaders look to the U.N. for any assistance at all! Trusting those bureacratic thugs with the security of Israel: how brain-dead must one be?

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Dr. Wills,

Livni may be brain dead, but I don't think Olmert is. I think he is doing it on purpose.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger Tom the Redhunter said...

Hi there

Nice summation of the situation regarding UNIFIL, Hezbollah, and Lebanon.

I think though you're missing the point, or reason, on why UNIFIL troops won't do anything. It's not a question of getting the proper UN resolution, it's that the countries that sent the troops do not think that the goal of disarming Hezbollah is worth the death of any of their soldiers. That's it in a nutshell.

European countries send troops on UN "peacekeeping" operations because they want to feel good about themselves. Third world countries send troops to make money. Countries are paid just over $1000 per day per soldier. For the US or Europe, it's a money loser. For a poor country, though, it's a money maker.

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Tom the Redhunter,

I agree with your second paragraph and was not aware of your third. Very interesting.


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