France has provided the latest hitch in the deployment of the proposed international United Nations force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The French General in charge of UNIFIL was quoted in a French newspaper as saying that it could take up to a year to deploy the forces.
Paris has promised to send thousands of troops to lead the international force to carry out the ceasefire resolution, which requires "the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that... there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State."
However, the resolution also calls for "no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government," and Lebanon already has said it will not force Hizbullah give up its arms. The French defense minister also has said its forces will not take away arms from Hizbullah terrorist guerillas.
Thousands of French soldiers are on ships ready to sail to Lebanon, but the government now is backtracking, wanting a clear definition of its mandate and when soldiers can open fire, according to the The Associated Press.
In a classic "chicken and egg" situation, the French government has said it does not want to commit how many soldiers it will send until other countries commit themselves. However, most nations have said they will act only after France takes the lead. Germany, a major European Union power, still is hesitating. The government has agreed in principle to send troops, but they may be deployed in non-sensitive areas to prevent the unwanted situation of German soldiers firing on Israeli troops or vice-versa.
Deployment of an international force is complicated by the presence of Hizbullah terrorist guerillas. Theoretically, the 18-mile swath of land south of the Litani River to the Israeli border will be manned by Lebanese troops, who have been absent for two decades from the area where Hizbullah has been firmly entrenched.
Hizbullah's terrorist guerillas have built up a powerful infrastructure of weapons, especially during the six years following Israel's rapid withdrawal in 2000. It also has established itself as the social benefactor to the predominately Shi'ite Muslim population, providing services in place of the government and making itself a de facto state within the country.
The Lebanese government is approaching a compromise solution that would leave Hizbullah armed on condition its weapons are concealed. This violates the UN resolution, which states in Paragraph 8 that southern Lebanon must remain free of armed groups other than the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.
However, Arutz-7's Hillel Fendel notes, the situation is muddled by the presence of a contradictory clause; Paragraph 3 "emphasizes [as opposed to 'calls for' - ed.] the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory... so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon."
In any event, leaving Hizbullah armed keeps a status quo situation which U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has insisted would not be tolerated.
The current UNIFIL generally has been acknowledged as ineffective in preventing Hizbullah terrorists from attacking Israel. He told BBC this week that if his forces see a ceasefire violation, "I call both parties... I beg them to stop." Evidence also has been produced that UNIFIL abetted Hizbullah in the abduction of IDF soldiers several years ago.
Israel has agreed to withdraw its troops in conjunction with the deployment of the new international UNIFIL force, which is to patrol along with the Lebanese army. The AP quoted unnamed IDF sources as saying the withdrawal could begin as early as Thursday. But the plan is dependent on the deployment of Lebanese troops, which so far have remained north of the Litani River. The Lebanese government has not been able to meet to discuss the deployment because of divisions within the government, which includes two representatives of the Hizbullah terrorist organization and another three ministers who are pro-Hizbullah.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has explained the dilemma in the same language the American government used to rationalize the authority of the Hamas-led legislature in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In response to a question asking why Lebanon does not take steps to disarm Hizbullah, McCormack replied, "Well, what we are saying is the Lebanese people have a choice. They have to decide their own politics."
Hizbullah arch-terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah also has refused to give up his weapons. The IDF discovered many of them during the war, including advanced rockets, throughout southern Lebanon. Nasrallah, resting on the laurels of having prevented Israel from returning the two IDF soldiers his terrorists kidnapped, said in a televised speech Monday night that those calling for disarmament are guilty of "insensitivity and immorality."
The difficulty in distinguishing between civilians and Hizbullah terrorists also makes the U.N. plan more theoretical than practical, according to the Washington Post. "[Hizbullah] keeps its presence secret and many militia members are local residents who take up arms only when called on by their leaders," the Post writes. "Their departure has not been envisaged," Lebanese officials said, "and only the militia's officers and their weapons must be pulled back north of the Litani as part of the U.N. cease-fire."
"What are the alternatives you have come up with?" Nasrallah asked in his speech. "Can the Lebanese army and the United Nations troops step up to the plate to defend the nation? Haste and simplification are out of the question. We were ready and will always be ready for dialogue to extend the authority of the state. We are part of the government and a basic part of it."