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

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship