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Peacekeeping Force Takes Shape

Prepared by: Eben Kaplan
Updated: August 28, 2006

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A proposal of rules that would allow peacekeepers to defend themselves and civilians with deadly force (AP) seems to have assuaged French fears of a large commitment to a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. In a televised address Thursday evening, French President Jacques Chirac pledged 2,000 troops, saying "France is ready, if the United Nations wishes, to continue commanding this force" (IHT). Experts expect the move will pave the way for other nations to commit troops and install an ample force. Prior to Chirac's announcement, the UN was looking to Italy for leadership. Earlier in the week, while France was still waffling, Italy promised up to 3,000 troops, provided Israel abides by the ceasefire (MSNBC). In the wake of Chirac's address, Germany promised 1,200 troops (Deutche Welle) to the growing contingent of European peacekeepers that is expected to reach 7,000 (Haaretz). Rallying enough soldiers promises to be the first of many challenges for the UN mission, this Backgrounder looks at the checkered history of multinational interventions in the region.

Much of the recent diplomatic wrangling revolves around UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which has been criticized as vague and unrealistic (Toronto Star). Furthermore, it does not call for the disarmament of Hezbollah, though the United States plans to introduce a resolution that will (AP). The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's David B. Makovsky says the failure to disarm Hezbollah as stipulated in Security Council Resolution 1559 contributed to the recent outbreak of violence. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer writes, "For all its boasts, Hezbollah has suffered grievously militarily," and could easily be cut down to size if a robust peacekeeping force were present.

While EU troops prepare for deployment, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is traveling in the Middle East (Daily Star) in an attempt to shore up a still tenuous cease-fire. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen has warned a violation of the cease-fire could dissuade nations from contributing to the peacekeeping effort (LAT). If the United Nations does not get the 15,000 troops it wants, a number Chirac called "excessive" (AP), the mission's success may increasingly depend on the fledgling multiethnic Lebanese army. As this new Backgrounder explains, history shows such armies have the potential to knit nations together.

There is also the question of what role Syria and Iran should play in the peacekeeping process. Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's top Mideast negotiator, writes in the Washington Post there is little hope the terms of Resolution 1701 will be realized without involving Syria in its implementation. CFR Senior Fellow Lee Feinstein tells CFR.org Iran must also be involved if the cease-fire is to stick. These sentiments are echoed by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in an interview with al-Jazeera. But the Washington Institute's David Schenker disagrees, saying such a move would "sell Lebanon down the road" (Daily Star). UN peacekeepers may be asked to patrol the Syria-Lebanon border in order to prevent shipments of weapons from reaching Hezbollah, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said such a deployment would constitute a "hostile act" (The Age). That might not be such a bad thing, says CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot, who thinks Israel should wage a preemptive war against Syria.

Beyond the diplomatic disputes lies the question of how to go about rebuilding post-war Lebanon. On August 20, the Arab League met to discuss how it can contribute to reconstruction (al-Jazeera). Several nations have already pledged large sums to offset the estimated $3.6 billion cost of rebuilding, including $800 million from Kuwait, $500 million from Saudi Arabia, and $230 million from the United States. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is wasting no time in rushing to the aid of those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed (Spiegel). Pledges of support are all well and good, but according to a Daily Star editorial, reconstruction will require a significant overhaul of the state because "the shattered state cannot be glued back together into the same pre-war shape and form."

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