Joined: 24 Feb 2003
|Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 4:41 pm Post subject: Unfit to keep the peace - National Post
|Unfit to keep the peace
August 19, 2006
France has not stepped up as hoped to man the UN's ceasefire force in Lebanon, pledging on Friday to send just 200 soldiers, rather than the 2,000 or more expected. They will join another 200 soldiers France already had there as part of the previous UN peacekeeping force. Germany will not send combat troops, just ships to patrol offshore and perhaps some customs agents and border police. Denmark will send a frigate, but no ground forces.
Muslim countries, however, have been only too eager to step up to the plate. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia have together committed 6,000 soldiers, nearly half the planned UN contingent of 13,000 to 15,000. But not one of these countries recognizes Israel's right to exist, and all have blamed the recent war on "Israeli aggression."
Israeli officials have rightly asked whether troops from these countries can really serve as neutral peacekeepers. Can they be counted on to disarm Hezbollah and keep the terror organization from re-establishing itself as the de facto government of south Lebanon, if their political masters share at least some of the terrorists' views about the war and the eradication of the Jewish state?
The UN resolution that led to the cessation of fighting -- 1701 --calls for a complete disarmament of Hezbollah, including its remaining 9,000 rockets, its automatic rifles, mortars and grenades. The motion also requires the Lebanese army, and the UN peacekeeping force that is expected to be on-site in the next two weeks, to push the terrorists almost 20 kilometres north of the Israeli border to keep them from launching attacks on northern Israel.
Yet on Thursday, the Lebanese government and Hezbollah agreed the country's army would confiscate only those Hezbollah arms it "found" in the area. And on Friday, Elias Murr, Lebanon's defence minister, told Lebanese television, "The army is not going to the south to strip Hezbollah of weapons and do the work Israel did not." He also explained that his definition of "found" meant only those arms being brandished in public. There would be no effort to hunt down Hezbollah's Katyushas or to destroy its network of 700 or more hardened bunkers in the borderlands.
Nor will Mr. Murr and his Lebanese cabinet colleagues lift a finger to stop Hezbollah from reasserting control over the governance of south Lebanon. With the financial backing of Iran, Hezbollah announced on Thursday it would rebuild every residence and business bombed during the month-long war with Israel and provide one-year's rent or mortgage. Instead of Lebanese police and troops restoring civil order, Beirut has permitted Hezbollah fighters to take the lead in clearing rubble, guarding damaged businesses, dismantling unexploded bombs and directing traffic on public roads choked with returning refugees. Hezbollah, too, controls the inflow of humanitarian supplies and medical aid, and has already resumed making welfare payments.
It is no wonder most southern Lebanese look to Hezbollah for protection rather than to their country's democratically elected parliament. Even most Lebanese soldiers recognize Hezbollah as the true power south of the Litani River. One veteran sergeant told the National Post's Matthew Fisher on Thursday that it was a pipedream to think he and his comrades could disarm Hezbollah, even if they wanted to, which they did not. "Hezbollah and the army are united. We are one," he admitted. "My brother is in Hezbollah, so why would I want to take his weapon?"
UN peacekeepers -- especially those from Islamic states -- cannot be expected to take a harder line than Lebanon itself. Nor is there any sign their governments want to. At a recent meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur, all three Muslim countries that have offered to patrol in Lebanon called on the UN to end the war of "Israeli aggression," and urged their fellow Muslim nations to "discontinue their overt and covert ties with the Zionist regime immediately." Separately, Bangladesh went further, calling Israel's defensive actions "state terrorism."
It seems highly unlikely either the UN or the Lebanese government, then, will do anything to stop Hezbollah from re-establishing its terrorist statelet within easy striking distance of Israel's northern cities and farms. With such a scenario, a resumption of hostilities seems inevitable, perhaps within months.
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