Who Does UNIFIL Protect?

In 1978, the United Nations established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to patrol the area of southern Lebanon and prevent the continuance of PLO attacks against northern Israel, which in turn had triggered an Israeli retaliatory incursion into Lebanon. That UN force failed in its mission.

Dr. Steve Carol

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In 1978, the United Nations established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to patrol the area of southern Lebanon and prevent the continuance of PLO attacks against northern Israel, which in turn had triggered an Israeli retaliatory incursion into Lebanon. That UN force failed in its mission. The terrorist attacks against Israel continued, thus triggering an even larger Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

UNIFIL?s mandate was renewed and again proved equally ineffective. It must be recalled that since 1978, the United Nations passed seven Security Council resolutions about Lebanon. All have called for the same thing. None have achieved their goals.
This should not come as a surprise to those who studied the prior history of the United Nations involvement in Lebanon. One only needs to recall the performance, or rather lack of it, by the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL) in 1958. Its mission was to ascertain if Syria, then a part of the United Arab Republic, was smuggling weapons, men and material to Lebanese rebel forces seeking to overthrow the legitimate government of Lebanon. UNOGIL failed miserably at that task. The similarities of UN activity in 1958, 1978-2006, and since August of 2006 are remarkable.

Just as the earlier UNOGIL did not patrol at night, so too has the current UNIFIL force conducted no patrols at night. Quoting Spanish UNIFIL official Richard Ortax, as reported in the German publication Der Spiegel, this is "because of the danger involved." UNIFIL commanders said their function is to ?observe changes in the behavior of the local population.?

What happened to the mandate to UNIFIL in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (UNSC 1701)? It states: "The establishment between the [international border] and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL." Thus, the resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, a reference to Hizbullah, but it does not specify how this should be done. In addition, UNSC 1701, by focusing only on southern Lebanon, indicates its recognition of Hizbullah?s right to continue to deploy missiles north of the Litani River, thus continuing to threaten Israel's citizenry at any time with longer-ranged missiles. Lebanese leaders have stated openly that the Lebanese army would not attempt to take away the terrorists' weapons. Additionally, they would not even confiscate weapons caches it stumbled upon. So again, as was the case in 1958, weapons smuggling from Syria has continued unabated.

While the current UNIFIL force boasts a contingent of some 6,000 ?blue helmets,? to be increased to a total of about 12,000, bolstered by 14,000 Lebanese armed forces, their performance thus far is worse than that of the UNOGIL force of 1958. Then UNOGIL was only 166 men at its peak strength, and they were charged with monitoring the 324 kilometers (195 miles) of the Syrian-Lebanese border. As was stated, they were not allowed to patrol at night and were not allowed access into rebel-held areas.
The current UNIFIL force has an even smaller area to monitor, an 18-by 31-mile region of southern Lebanon. They have more troops than in 1958 or in 1978-2006. And yet, the United Nations itself has admitted that Syria is still successfully smuggling arms to Hizbullah, which neither UNIFIL nor the Lebanese army plan to stop. Following a UN Security Council meeting on November 1, 2006, UN envoy to the region Terje Roed-Larsen explicitly admitted that Syria was actively smuggling weapons into Lebanon. He said that Lebanese government officials "have stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there have been arms coming across the border into Lebanon." Roed-Larsen added that Syria itself does not deny the flow of weapons, claiming only that the arms are not being dispatched by the Syrian government. This incredulous statement comes from one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, where virtually all activity is monitored by the Assad regime. "The consistent position of the government of Syria has been that, 'Yes, there might be arms smuggling over the border, but this is arms smuggling and the border is porous and very difficult to control,"? Roed-Larsen told reporters.
Turning to the interdiction of weapons smuggling via sea, the UNIFIL has at its command a multinational flotilla of German, Danish, Dutch, French, Greek, Norwegian and Swedish warships. Their mission is to prevent arms smuggling. However, this international flotilla remains outside of Lebanon?s 12 mile limit, thus enabling a virtual non-stop flow of weaponry from the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus, along the Lebanese coast to Hizbullah strongholds in southern Lebanon.

In short, far from disarming Hizbullah, Iran and Syria have continued to re-arm and re-supply Hizbullah. Lebanon has openly abetted this. Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian Lebanese president, who is nominally commander-in-chief of the army, has described the notion of disarming Hizbullah as ?disgraceful?: "How can they ask us to disarm while the blood of the martyrs is still warm?"

The one area where the current UNIFIL force has threatened to act tough is against Israel. Two recent episodes involving German naval helicopters violating Israeli air space, as well as French threats to shoot at Israeli aerial reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, have made it clear that UNIFIL sees Israel as their enemy, not Hizbullah. Israeli reconnaissance flights are to monitor the movements and re-supply efforts to Hizbullah. Here, the UN has charged Israel with violating UNSC 1701 and the French commander of UNIFIL has threatened to fire upon Israeli jets. Indeed, in mid-October 2006 French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie stated that the Israeli flights are ?extremely dangerous because they may be felt as hostile by forces of the [UNIFIL] coalition.? Thus, in effect, rather than being the ?peacekeeping? force in the region and fulfilling its entire mandate, UNIFIL is acting (as it occasionally had in the past) as a shield for Hizbullah, behind which Hizbullah is rearming, refortifying and preparing for an even larger second round in its Iranian and Syrian-backed war against Israel.
Israel, for its first 45 years, has relied only on the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to protect its territory and independence. Now, it seems to be moving towards reliance on UNIFIL and the hostile international community to protect it. Worse still, as Hizbullah resumes attacks and UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army do little or nothing to stop those attacks, Israel will be faced with the problem of trying to stop Hizbullah, which means entering Lebanon yet again, and clashing with the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.

Israel will face international condemnation, as already has happened, with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan denouncing an Israeli commando attack in the Bekaa Valley in mid-August, 2006. Thus by "making war" on a UN force, Israel sets itself up as being branded the "aggressor" and being declared an "outlaw state". This is something that the enemies of Israel have been trying to accomplish for years.

Israel must return to the admonition voiced by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin: "Israel alone must be responsible for its own defense and future." No country in the world lets outsiders dictate its policies on fundamental issues of national security;. Israel must not be the first to do so.

© Dr. Steve Carol