The Region: Questions for a multinational force

By BARRY RUBIN
August 8, 2006 01:25

What happens when push comes to shove?

4 minute read.



The Franco-American cease-fire plan looks good. Hizbullah, Iran and Syria want to sabotage it for precisely that reason. It should soon be apparent to the world that Israel prefers peace, and that the radical trio seeks continued strife within Lebanon and on the border. Among the cease-fire proposal's key points are the following: • a south Lebanon buffer zone which only Lebanon's army and an international force can enter; • all sides to respect the Lebanon-Israel border; • a procedure to disarm Hizbullah; • strengthening Lebanon's army to ensure it controls the south; • establishing an embargo on the supply of weaponry to Hizbullah from abroad. If this is really implemented, the border should become calm, Lebanon will prosper, and the terrorists will be dealt a major defeat. Therefore Hizbullah, Iran and Syria - aided at least in part by a fearful Lebanese government - have tried to scuttle this program. Will the world stand up to the terrorists and their sponsors, or is it going to water down the cease-fire plan into something they can accept? But what if the world does stand behind such a serious effort to change things for the better? Let us assume there is an agreement to create an international force with a mandate for maintaining the peace. All the following contingencies had better be covered by their rules of engagement. • What happens when Hizbullah forces resist being disarmed? • How does the force contend with the intimidation of the Lebanese government and politicians by Hizbullah to ensure that it is not disarmed; with Hizbullah continuing to control the south, bringing in weapons in cooperation with Syria and Iran, and launching attacks on Israel? • If international force members uncover Iranian or Syrian agents doing dirty work (arms smuggling, training terrorists, carrying out murders or bombings in Lebanon) do they intervene to stop them? If Iran and Syria defy the cease-fire will they face international criticism and sanctions? • Would there be inspections of arriving vehicles and planes to see if they are carrying rockets or other arms to Hizbullah? How will the force do this if Lebanese officials are too bribed, ideologically sympathetic, or just plain terrified to do anything themselves? If the force found such items could it confiscate them? • If the force comes across Hizbullah or other terrorists in southern Lebanon does it shoot at them, or just write a report? Will the force destroy any fortifications Hizbullah tries to rebuild in southern Lebanon? • What does the force do if Hizbullah or other terrorists (al-Qaida, Palestinian, etc.) shoot at them anywhere in Lebanon? • How will the force prevent the kidnapping of its members, for whom at least some terrorist groups will offer a reward? • Will the force appease Syria and Iran to discourage them from ordering the killings or kidnappings of force members? • How will contributing countries react when terrorist groups threaten to launch attacks on their own territory if they either furnish soldiers or urge them to do their job energetically? • Suppose that a truck full of Hizbullah guys pulls up next to a force camp, and that they give the peacekeepers the finger and fire a rocket at Israel? What if they hang around in the neighborhood, hoping to draw an Israeli air strike that might kill some force soldiers? • What will Western governments do (and this will happen, I promise you) when the Arab mass media, including state-directed outlets in "moderate" states, run the following items: the international force is an arm of Western imperialism seeking to control Lebanon and enslave all Arabs; force soldiers are brutalizing the Lebanese (which sometimes might even be true); and the force is functioning to protect evil Israel from destruction and thus is an enemy of Arabs and Muslims? • If Hizbullah terrorists attack into Israel on the ground or fire rockets and Israel strikes at that specific unit, does the UN accept Israel's action on the grounds that it is defending itself after the force failed to perform its function? • And of especially great importance: If the international force suffers serious losses, will countries start dropping out and removing their soldiers? We should bear in mind the killing of over 300 American and French peacekeeping troops in Lebanon in the early 1980s by Hizbullah and Syria. ALL THE ABOVE scenarios are not just possible; they are virtually guaranteed to happen. The great temptation, of course, is for the force to ride around in nice vehicles, take rest breaks at the cafes of Beirut, and do nothing else in between. What will the inner culture of the force be: Don't hassle the Hizbullah, and they won't bother you; don't make waves; if you don't shoot at them, they won't shoot at you? Yes, that sounds about right. May the force be with you. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) and of Turkish Studies.


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