Tuesday, September 26, 2006

UN Force in Lebanon is defined more by what it cannot do than what it can – NY Times. Israeli troops stand by as Hizballah rearms

UN Force in Lebanon is defined more by what it cannot do than what it can – NY Times. Israeli troops stand by as Hizballah rearms

September 26, 2006, 12:01 PM (GMT+02:00)

The United Nations force created to police southern Lebanon faces not only a threatening al Qaeda presence cheek by jowl, but endless handicaps in performing its mandated functions. The New York Times correspondent reports: One month after a UN Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war… the international force members say “they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example (in violation of the UN arms embargo), they cannot stop it… because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution (1701) that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese army.” And whereas the Security Council allocated 15,000 troops to expanded UNIFIL, only 5,000 are deployed. According to the NYT, the UN commanders repeat as a mantra that their job is to respect Lebanese sovereignty by supporting the Lebanese army. “They will only do what the Lebanese authorities ask.” DEBKAfile adds: More than 40% of the Lebanese army consists of Shiites. Their loyalty goes first to Hizballah or their Shiite commanders rather than the Lebanese government. Israeli officials and commanders have their own mantra which is that there is no Hizballah activity on the ground. The last Israeli forces can therefore pull out of South Lebanon by the end of the month. DEBKAfile notes that the Olmert government continues to cover up the failure of its war objectives by polishing up its aftermath. The truth is that Hizballah activities are intense but do not figure in the reports of UNIFIL’s European contingents, which have their own agenda. This agenda has whittled down most elements of the mission assigned the UN force by Resolution 1701, which was approved in the first place to prevent Hizballah from continuing its attacks on Israel and destabilizing the area. As for the demand to disarm Hizballah, the paper quotes local Shiites as making it clear “they will fight anybody who tries to take Hizballah’s weapons away. For the forces to remain welcome they must demonstrate they are there to protect the Lebanese from Israel – not to police the Lebanese on behalf of Israel.” DEBKAfile adds: Hizballah would not need to fight the international force. Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri stated in his last videotape this month that UNIFIL in Lebanon is a target for terrorist attack. Hizballah’s hands can therefore stay clean. US Intelligence Director John Negroponte reported last week that Qaeda’s expansion into Lebanon, exploiting the conflict there, is being taken seriously. The chasm between the Sunni Muslim al Qaeda and Lebanon’s Shiite Hizballah is no bar to collaboration. However, from the Israeli side of the border, yellow-clad, Hizballah flag-waving demonstrators are photographed day by day, throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles and moving into the former locations of the destroyed Hizballah positions. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that just a month after the ceasefire went into effect, Hizballah’s arsenals are filling up again as trucks head south from central and northern Lebanon unimpeded by Israeli or international troops. Israel has still not appointed a new head of the IDF’s Northern command to replace the war commander Maj.-Gen Udi Adam who stepped down last week. As for the international force, its “robust” policing operations have more or less been relegated to the archives of the UN Security Council.


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