Either Require UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon To Do Their Job, or Send Them Home

In the wake of the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah, the UN deployed its Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to keep the two armies apart, and to prevent Hizballah from operating in the area between the Litani River and the Israel-Lebanon border. But UNIFIL has failed spectacularly in the latter part of its mission—although that hasn’t prevented the various concerned parties from maintaining the illusion that it is doing its job. Assaf Orion writes:

European contributors [to the force] enjoy the political-military influence it confers; Beirut enjoys the revenues and veneer of legitimacy associated with hosting a sizable UN force; Hizballah leaders enjoy UNIFIL paying for projects in their southern heartland and hiring hundreds of local staff, so long as the force stays out of their business; and so forth. Another year of no change would please many of these actors, Hizballah most of all.

Yet this status quo is an illusion. . . . [T]he Lebanese government has stepped up its efforts to prevent UNIFIL from encountering or exposing Hizballah activities . . . and Hizballah has increased its strength and activities in UNIFIL’s area of operations. This state of affairs is more than just a mission failure—it represents a dangerous slope toward unwarranted escalation.

In August, the Security Council will hold its annual vote as to whether to extend UNIFIL’s mandate. Orion suggests steps the U.S. and its allies can take to reform the force, including, paradoxically, shrinking it.

The force should be immediately reduced by 10-20 percent, its maritime component decreased by one vessel, and its maximum authorized number cut from 15,000 to 8,000-10,000. . . . These reductions would show Beirut that military support is neither infinite nor unconditional, while prodding it to fulfill its commitments to [disarm Hizballah], reducing the risk to peacekeepers in the event of escalation, and curbing the amount of UN funding [that ends up in the hands of] Hizballah’s base of supporters.

Even more importantly, Orion argues, the Lebanese government must allow UNIFIL unrestricted access throughout its area of operations, which it does not now do. And the U.S. should make clear that it will use its veto to end UNIFIL’s mandate if such measures are not taken.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Israeli Security, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin