The pros and cons of an int'l force in Lebanon

"Yes," if the mission is to assist the Lebanese army; "no" to a direct role along the border.

By LT.-GEN. (RET.) YA'ALON, MAJ.-GEN. (RES.) AMIDROR
July 25, 2006 23:32
The pros and cons of an int'l force in Lebanon

yaalon 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Discussions about security arrangements in Lebanon at the end of the war have included the proposal to station an international force in that country. Yet the UN has a very bad name in terms of confronting strong forces in areas where it is stationed. The only logical basis for an international presence is the creation of a force whose primary mission will be assisting the Lebanese army in disarming Hizbullah (as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 1559). Such a force should be deployed close to Beirut, at Lebanese-Syrian border crossing, and deep in the Bekaa Valley. An international force has no role in southern Lebanon along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Israel is deployed along its northern border to defend itself and prevent the strengthening of Hizbullah, should it try to move southward. To complement this deployment, there should be an agreement prohibiting the building of fortifications in southern Lebanon - as in the agreement between Israel and Egypt. In addition, the UN should establish a supervisory force like UNSCOM to deal with locating and clearing out Hizbullah's arms caches and preventing the building of new ones. Types of international forces In the interest of a serious national discourse about security arrangements in Lebanon at the end of the war, it is worthwhile to more thoroughly discuss the proposed stationing of an international force in Lebanon, an idea that Israel has opposed in the distant and recent past. There are four known kinds of international forces:

  • A force whose purpose is to supervise signed agreements between two states - such as the multinational force (MFO) that supervises the Israeli-Egyptian agreement in the Sinai.
  • A force whose role is to report on events in the field where it is deployed, without the ability or role of enforcing a certain policy - such as the international force that is deployed by the UN in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL).
  • A force whose mission is to maintain quiet in a region where there is a potential for clashes - that being the role of the NATO forces in Kosovo.
  • A force whose task is to fight in the name of a certain policy - such as the UN force in the Korean War in the 1950s and the NATO force in Afghanistan today. Although it is not clear what is being considered or planned regarding an international force in Lebanon, the accumulated experience on this issue should not be ignored. The US Marines, who came to Lebanon at the end of 1982, withdrew in fear a few months later after Hizbullah used intensive terrorism against them. UNIFIL has been in the field since 1978 and has done more harm than good - it did not prevent Palestinian terror (prior to Israel's entry into southern Lebanon in 1982) or Hizbullah attacks, while hampering the IDF's freedom of action. Among all the international forces in our area, the only one that successfully carries out its role is the multinational force in Sinai, which is built on a broad American basis. Its success is due mainly to the fact that the two countries involved, Egypt and Israel, are determined to uphold the security arrangements. Also in Kosovo, where a large international force is stationed, there has been relative success - because the force, just by being there, promotes the interests of the local actors who want independence or annexation to Albania, and no one has an interest in harming the functioning of the force. In Afghanistan, however, the multinational force under NATO command is waging a real war, and quite successfully, yet has no connection to the UN or its institutions. What should Israel expect from a multinational force? Israel should not expect a multinational force to fight Hizbullah so as to disarm it. The UN has a very bad name in confronting strong forces in areas where its forces are stationed. A force that will separate between the aims and actions of a thriving Hizbullah and the State of Israel is a recipe for disaster; it will most likely fail in fighting Hizbullah, but will also hamper the IDF's freedom of response. It seems the only logical basis which justifies an international force, made up of real combat soldiers, is the creation of a force whose primary mission will be assisting the Lebanese army. It is the Lebanese Armed Forces that must carry the burden of disarming Hizbullah and that must verify that there are no military contingents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon (all as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 1559). It is the Lebanese Armed Forces that must safeguard Lebanon's borders - so that Iranian and Syrian weapons are not smuggled into Lebanon to help Hizbullah rebuild close to the border with Israel. The Lebanese Armed Forces is a sufficiently strong army and there seems to be no need to fear that the Shi'ites in it will defect to Hizbullah. This army may, however, need assistance and backing, and that is what a strong international force can provide. It should be prepared to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in areas where Hizbullah was strong and influential. An international force has no role along the Israel-Lebanon border In southern Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces will have a supportive backup in the form of the IDF, stationed along Israel's northern border. However, it needs a similar supportive framework in central and eastern Lebanon. To complement this deployment, it may be worth importing two important ideas from other conflict zones. These ideas can help ensure Lebanon's flowering as an independent state, without threat from Hizbullah, either internally or by threatening Israel: An agreement should prohibit the building of fortifications in southern Lebanon - as in the agreement between Israel and Egypt. This will remove the concern that the threat will return to Israel's northern border. The UN should establish a supervisory force like UNSCOM to deal with locating and clearing out Hizbullah's arms caches and preventing the building of new ones. The UN carried out this role reasonably well in Iraq and there is no reason it cannot do so in Lebanon. Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon was the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces and is currently a distinguished military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'akov Amidror heads the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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