Lebanon: Europe Pledges a Larger Force


Richard Moore

   ³Europe pledged to add up to 6,900 troops to the United
    Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon...But the
    officials cautioned that the force would not be used to
    disarm Hezbollah. That job, if it is done at all, will be
    left to the Lebanese government and army.
   ...³Their conflict is partly a local one, over prisoners that
    each side holds, and the history of Israel¹s occupation of
    the region...and it is widely viewed as a proxy conflict
    between the United States and Iran.²

The plot thickens. Europe shows a healthy skepticism for the US-Israeli 
position. Israel demands the disarmament of Hezbollah, the EU force won't do the
disarming -- and we know the Lebanese government cannot do it. What will be the 
outcome? Israel claims the right to continue air raids, and Hezbollah would be 
likely to respond eventually with missiles to Israel. 

Here's one possible scenario: the staged outrage incident, aimed at starting a 
war with Iran, will involve a massacre of the occupying troops, blamed on Iran, 
thus forcing Europe to go along with an attack. Only a guess, there are so many 
such possible scenarios.


Original source URL:

August 26, 2006

Europe Pledges a Larger Force Inside Lebanon

BRUSSELS, Aug. 25 ‹ After a week of confusion and missteps, Europe pledged to 
add up to 6,900 troops to the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern 
Lebanon, officials said at an emergency meeting of European Union foreign 
ministers here on Friday.

But the officials cautioned that the force would not be used to disarm 
Hezbollah. That job, if it is done at all, will be left to the Lebanese 
government and army.

The international force, joined by Lebanese national soldiers, is the solution 
that world powers agreed to after a month of fighting between Israel and 
Hezbollah, an Islamist militia that dominates southern Lebanon. Israel, in 
particular, wanted a strong European contingent in the force.

But after the force was agreed to, a number of countries said that the rules of 
engagement were unclear, and that they feared their troops would end up fighting
with either Israel or Hezbollah. Their conflict is partly a local one, over 
prisoners that each side holds, and the history of Israel¹s occupation of the 

But it is also a result of Hezbollah¹s refusal to recognize Israel¹s legitimacy,
and it is widely viewed as a proxy conflict between the United States and Iran.

The largest contribution to the expanded force came from Italy, which confirmed 
that it would contribute 3,000 troops and was asked by Secretary General Kofi 
Annan to succeed France in command of the force in February. The force seemed 
unlikely to reach the 15,000-troop level authorized under United Nations 
Resolution 1701, which ended the fighting in Lebanon. President Jacques Chirac 
of France on Friday called the 15,000 figure ³totally excessive.² Currently, 
there are more than 2,000 United Nations troops in Lebanon.

³Europe has lived up to its responsibility,² said Mr. Annan, who attended the 
emergency session of European Union foreign ministers here. He called the 
commitments the ³credible core² called for by Resolution 1701.

He said that he hoped several thousand of the additional troops would deploy 
³within the next few days, not the next few weeks,² and that the total force 
would arrive in three waves extending over several months.

Mr. Annan said agreement was reached on new rules of engagement that authorize 
the peacekeepers to use deadly force against those preventing them from doing 
their job.

³If, for example, combatants, or those illicitly moving weapons, forcibly resist
a demand from them, or from the Lebanese Army, to disarm,² then armed force 
could be used, he said. He added, however, that disarming Hezbollah ‹ a central 
goal of two United Nations resolutions on Lebanon ‹ ³is not going to be done by 

The expanded peacekeeping force¹s mandate is to support the Lebanese Army in 
enforcing the resolutions. But disarmament of Hezbollah ³has to be achieved 
through negotiation, and an internal Lebanese consensus, a political process, 
for which the new Unifil is not, and cannot be, a substitute,² Mr. Annan said. 
Unifil is the acronym for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Mr. Annan also said the peacekeepers would not be deployed along the Lebanese 
border with Syria unless the Lebanese government expressly requested them. Syria
has said that it would regard such a deployment as a ³hostile act² and Lebanon 
has already said it did not want United Nations support in policing the border.

Mr. Annan¹s presence at the ministers¹ meeting today underscored the urgency of 
getting additional peacekeepers on the ground in Lebanon to cement a fragile 
cease-fire. But given the limits on the peacekeepers¹ mandate, it is unlikely 
that the expanded international force will resolve the central issue of 
Hezbollah¹s armed presence in southern Lebanon ‹ a fact that Mr. Annan and 
European officials alluded to.

³Our main concerns now relate to the political context in which the U.N. force 
will operate,² Mr. Annan said. ³The U.N. ‹ Security Council and Secretariat 
alike ‹ is fully seized of the need to move the political process forward, to 
stabilize the situation and secure a durable cease-fire.²

He said he would visit Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian 
territories next week and then make recommendations to the Security Council on 
ways to resolve the political situation that led to the crisis.

Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim organization that is supported financially, 
politically and militarily by Syria and Iran. The Lebanese Army, which will be 
responsible for stopping the flow of weapons from those two countries to 
Hezbollah, is largely made up of Shiite soldiers.

With Hezbollah represented in the Lebanese government, few people expect the 
Lebanese government or its army to be capable of disarming the powerful militia 
or moving it out of southern Lebanon without the cooperation of Syria and Iran.

Still, Mr. Annan gave a positive assessment of the situation on the ground.

³The cessation of hostilities has, on the whole, held remarkably well,² he said.
³Israeli forces are withdrawing progressively from south Lebanon, and the 
Lebanese armed forces are moving in.²

Javier Solana, the European Union¹s foreign policy chief, called on Israel to 
lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon to ease tensions and to allow 
reconstruction to go forward.

The French are contributing the largest number of troops after Italy, though it 
is not entirely clear how many. Mr. Chirac said Thursday that France would send 
a total of 2,000 troops. But the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy,
told the meeting on Friday that France would contribute 2,000 in addition to 
those already on the ground in Lebanon, which number 400. Spain promised a 
battalion of 1,000 to 1,200 troops and Poland, which already has some soldiers 
in Unifil, said it would add 500 soldiers now and possibly more later, depending
on the force¹s needs.

Belgium said that it would send 300 soldiers and that the number could rise to 
400. Finland pledged 250 soldiers.

Germany, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark all offered ships and other
naval assets. Britain said it would send Jaguar ground attack aircraft and 
Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, known as Awacs, in addition to a 
navy frigate. It also offered to help train and equip the Lebanese military and 
support enhanced command and control technology for the force.

Mr. Annan said that the United Nations had received serious offers of troops 
from countries outside Europe as well, including Malaysia, Indonesia and 
Bangladesh, and that he was consulting with Turkey about whether it would 
contribute. Israel has previously expressed opposition to Muslim countries that 
it has no diplomatic relations with, like Malaysia and Indonesia, joining the 
peacekeeping force. But Mr. Annan said he thought there were ways to use the 
troops while dealing with Israel¹s concerns.

In addition to succeeding the French command in February, Italy will lead a 
strategic office at United Nations headquarters in New York that will provide 
military guidance to the force, Mr. Annan said.

The decision on a joint command rewards Italy for leaping into the diplomatic 
breach in recent days with bold promises of troops and leadership while other 
European countries hesitated. And it avoids embarrassment for France, which was 
initially expected to take the lead but soon drew criticism for being slow to 
commit more troops.

In an important concession to France, which had worried about bureaucratic 
meddling in the force¹s chain of command ‹ a problem with past United Nations 
peacekeeping forces ‹ there will be no civilian special representatives of the 
secretary general on the ground to share the command, which will report instead 
to the military officers at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Russia was reported to be considering sending troops to Lebanon, but Defense 
Minister Sergei B. Ivanov said no decision had been made. ³It is not yet clear 
what the status of the peacekeeping force is, what their rights are, what they 
should do there, and what mandate they have,² he told reporters during a visit 
to the country¹s far east, Interfax reported.

It is unlikely that Russia¹s military, whose manpower and budget are already 
stretched thin, would be able to send a significant force.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Moscow for this article, and Ariane 
Bernard from Paris.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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