The Failures of UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon

Aug. 17 2016

Ten years ago, following the ceasefire that ended Israel’s second Lebanon war, the Security Council issued Resolution 1701, which increased the size and capabilities of the UN International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—first established in 1978 during that country’s civil war—and gave it a new mandate to ensure quiet on the Israel-Lebanon border. UNIFIL, writes Assaf Orion, has in fact succeeded at preventing the sort of minor incident between the two countries’ armies that could spark a war. However, it has done little to keep Hizballah and other terrorist groups from attacking Israel:

Since the end of the war, more than twenty incidents of rocket fire from Lebanon into Israel have been recorded, most apparently by organizations other than Hizballah. . . . . In recent years, [though], several Hizballah attacks from Lebanese soil were aimed at the IDF, including explosive devices in the Mount Dov sector and anti-tank guided missiles, which in January 2015 killed two IDF soldiers. (In that incident, a Spanish UNIFIL member was killed by IDF return fire.) While UNIFIL participated in the efforts to contain these incidents and prevent escalation, it failed to prevent them from occurring in the first place and also failed to prevent the basic conditions that made them possible, even when specifically warned in advance. . . .

Since the end of the war, not only has nothing been done [to create] a situation in which UNIFIL’s area of responsibility . . . is “free of any armed personnel, assets, or weapons, other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL” [to quote the language of Resolution 1701], but Hizballah has beefed up, broadened, deepened, and increased its military deployment in southern Lebanon and elsewhere in the country.

The roots of the failure lie in the flimsy foundations of Resolution 1701, [which] called on the government of Lebanon, . . . to exercise its sovereignty on every part of its soil and, using its army, demilitarize southern Lebanon. and dismantle armed militias, including Hizballah. UNIFIL was charged with helping the government of Lebanon achieve this [goal]. In practice, Lebanon is a weak state whose government, to the extent that it functioned at all during this period, was being held hostage by Hizballah, which is part of that same government. The Lebanese army too is Hizballah’s hostage and sometime partner: Hizballah is militarily stronger, and politically paralyzes the state’s military. Thus . . . Resolution 1701 was emptied of any real content even when it was formulated, and dynamics on the ground continued to deny it substance.

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Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Second Lebanon War, United Nations

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war