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September 25, 2006

UN Just As Ineffective In Lebanon As Before

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Actually, "ineffective" just doesn't describe it - let's call it pathetic: "U.N.
Force Is Treading Lightly on Lebanese Soil.

TIBNIN, Lebanon, Sept. 24 -- One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can.

They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.

The job of the United Nations force, and commanders in the field repeat this like a mantra, is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese Army. They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.

The Security Council resolution, known as 1701, was seen at the time as the best way to halt the war, partly by giving Israel assurances that Lebanon's southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking. When the resolution was approved, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of its principal architects, said the force's deployment would help "protect the Lebanese people and prevent armed groups such as Hezbollah from destabilizing the area."

But the resolution's diplomatic language skirted a fundamental question: what kind of policing power would be given to the international force? The resolution leaves open the possibility that the Lebanese Army would grant such policing power, but the force's commanders say that so far, at least, that has not happened.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding what we are doing here," said Lt. Col. Stefano Cappellaro, an Italian commander with the San Marco Regiment.

So it looks like we've regressed back to the same UNIFIL that's been doing nothing for the last 28 years, and it's unlikely to change. However, should the Israelis kick Olmert out of office, a very likely event, indeed, the UN will then have to deal with Benjamin Netanyahu, who will view resolution 1701 in an entirely new and critical light, especially if Hezbollah doesn't cough up its prisoners.

Posted by Richard at September 25, 2006 1:22 PM

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