The International Force For Lebanon
Bloomberg provides details on a proposal to deploy an international force to Lebanon which will prevent the Hezbollah from attacking Israel, thereby allowing Israel to withdraw.
July 17 (Bloomberg) -- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan pressed the five permanent UN Security Council members to contribute to a force that would quell the escalation of violence in the Middle East. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met with Annan this morning at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, said he would support the UN's goal and that such a force was necessary before fighting involving Israel, Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militants could be halted. ... The move puts pressure on the U.S., France, China and Russia to contribute to a force that would curtail clashes that started six days ago when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack. Today, Israeli artillery and planes struck at 60 targets in Lebanon, retaliating after Hezbollah rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third-biggest city. U.S. officials hesitated to embrace the UN effort ahead of a Security Council meeting that Annan said may happen later this week. Sending in an armed force "may be a tad premature, although it is a distinct possibility,'' said White House spokesman Tony Snow.
Several questions immediately come to mind with regard to Annan's suggestion.
- What is to prevent a Hezbollah attack on international forces similar to that conducted against the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983?
- In what time frame will a force from the U.S., France, China, Russia and the U.K. be able to deploy to Lebanon? American forces can be in theater very quickly. But the forces of France, Russia and China will be weeks arriving.
- In practice virtually all of the combat power of such a force will be American. Supporting arms, logistics, surveillance assets will be predominantly American because the US has far greater capability in these areas than all of the others countries in the Security Council many times over. Therefore Annan is essentially suggesting than an American force be deployed in Lebanon.
- What will the command structure of this force be? The inclusion of China and Russia mean that it cannot be run along NATO lines.
Still, this measure is one of the few alternatives to letting the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah from escalating to include Syria and Iran. The proposal has the virtue, as with Julius Caesar's assassins, of making all the members of the Security Council co-conspirators. However, the inclusion of Russia, which is still regarded as Syria's patron, will undermine the credibility of this force. With Russia aboard the force is unlikely to do anything decisive. The idea of an international force is also a tacit admission that Syria and Iran either cannot or will not call Hezbollah off. Interposing an "international" force of this nature won't solve the underlying problem. It may buy time, but that's about all. This proposal as it stands is probably fatally flawed, and if implemented apt to create more problems than it solves.