Where’s UNIFIL?

The international community cannot credibly feign ignorance of the incontestable evidence of turbulence brewing in Lebanon.

November 26, 2011 23:36
3 minute read.
UNIFIL peacekeepers at the Israel-Lebanon border.

UNIFIL in Lebanon 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Anyone familiar with the Arabian Nights tales knows they depict a reality comprised of layer upon shadowy layer, one concealed behind another. Nothing is what it seems. Life is an interminable complex of nefarious conspiracies in which truth isn’t only immaterial; it’s frequently downright undesirable.

The latest flip-flops concern the reported explosion in a Hezbollah munitions depot at one of its South Lebanon strongholds. The incident is now being denied outrightly by the terrorist organization. This despite reliable independent reports of a massive blast.

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No sooner did the booms rock the cache’s vicinity than accusations were hurled blaming Israel for the explosion. Tall tales were spun about an Israeli drone that Hezbollah claimed it downed two weeks earlier and which allegedly tipped IDF intelligence to the rocket-supply base’s location.

None of that, however, mattered much a mere one day later, when the fanciful stories were replaced by an equally implausible denial that anything at all had occurred. An official Hezbollah communiqué now contends there was no explosion whatever. Nevertheless, Hezbollah cordoned off the area in which the incident was first pinpointed, preventing Lebanese security forces from getting within a kilometer of the blast.

But there’s more. The spot in question is well within an area that is supposed to be controlled by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Hezbollah arsenals in South Lebanon are in clear contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Hence rocket arsenals under UNIFIL noses constitute a stinging mockery of the UN’s presumption and professed trustworthiness.

For Israel this further calls into the question the value of even the ragtag remnants of Resolution 1701, adopted to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War and regarded as the only quasi-achievement salvaged from that conflict.

Whereas for a while official Israel pro forma continued to take comfort from the fact that both UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army are deployed in South Lebanon, in reality it has long been abundantly evident that UNIFIL has failed abysmally in its task of preventing Hezbollah from regrouping, rearming and reinforcing.

We cannot afford to subject ourselves to the vagaries of our neighbors’ official versions, which, with unimaginable ease, turn events into non-events and vice versa. We know that Hezbollah maintains huge rocket-storing facilities in impudent proximity to UNIFIL installations. We know that UNIFIL knows this and we know that UNIFIL prefers to turn a blind eye. Denying the truth is preferable to putting up an honorable fight.

Sadly, there is nothing new in this additional confirmation of UNIFIL’s perfidy. We still remember the premeditated sniping ambush across the border into Israel by none other than the Lebanese Army in August 2010. All the while, UNIFIL personnel shouted at Lebanese marksmen to stop, but their verbal efforts were ignored. Though called “peacekeepers,” they never so much as raised a weapon to foil what was obviously outright aggression.

Once again, UNIFIL demonstrated that it is useless, if all its troops could do to prevent gunfire was to yell. This was emblematic of the job UNIFIL does.

But the ineffectiveness of the international force, which is patently reluctant to carry out its duty, takes on a more sinister aspect when we consider the restlessness in the region and in particular the soaring instability in Syria that directly affects the Lebanese equation.

Lebanon’s status as a Syrian vassal makes it especially sensitive to aftershocks from the turmoil striking at the foundations of Damascus’s Assad regime.

Already there is widespread talk in Beirut that a Hezbollah coup attempt is likely in the event that Bashar Assad is toppled from power. Hezbollah has been edgier than usual ever since the Arab League abandoned Assad, giving fresh impetus to speculation that Hezbollah is poised to wrest control of Lebanon.

The picture turns graver when we factor into it the realization that Lebanon’s military is increasingly Shi’ite (including the command of the South Region) and outrightly sympathetic to Hezbollah, if not in active cahoots with it.

The international community cannot credibly feign ignorance of the incontestable evidence of turbulence brewing in Lebanon. We in Israel must stay especially wary.

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