In the past few weeks, south Lebanese villagers barred UNIFIL peacekeepers from inspecting for Hizbullah military buildup, threw stones at UN troops, and wrested weapons from some. In an exceptionally polite reaction, UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas broadcast to the Lebanese that he loves their country, seeks to ensure their safety, and may have made mistakes, but meant well.
Villagers claim they had reacted only to the French regiment for using “sniffer dogs,” breaking into houses, and searching contemptuously.
A Hizbullah member of Parliament complained that the French conducted an exercise involving a response to a Hizbullah attack on Israel. Why imagine that Hizbullah may be the aggressor, he asked? [Not kidding; he did.]
A Lebanese newspaper editor accused UNIFIL of provoking the villagers, so as to create a scandal causing UNIFIL to be disbanded and the French troops to go home. This would embarrass Hizbullah and [by ending the truce agreement] give Israel an excuse to attack.
Lebanese officials accuse UNIFIL of not always cooperating and of patrolling villages without them. UNIFIL explains that its 12,000 troops conduct 350 patrols a day, and that the Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon are too spread out to be available. The Lebanese Army responds that its 6,000 troops in southern Lebanon suffice to accompany UNIFIL troops, if asked. [They take their time to arrive, giving Hizbullah time to cover evidence.]
UNIFIL commanders, ambassadors from UNIFIL national contingents, and the head of the Lebanese Army spent a week negotiating. They agreed: (1) All UNIFIL patrols would be in cooperation with the Lebanese Army; (2) No more dogs on patrol; (3) Only Lebanese soldiers would search houses; and (3) UNIFIL would avoid entering houses and yards.
The arrangement turns UNIFIL into a reporting team unable to enforce the truce.
The article ends with derision of Israeli military intelligence, which claims impressive and detailed knowledge of targets in the villages. Israeli intelligence lacked critical knowledge about the flotilla, does not know whether Syrian President Assad wants peace, did not foresee the results of Lebanon’s election, was surprised by PM Hariri’s submission to Syria, and had an inadequate list of targets for the war with Hizbullah. The journalist points out that the IDF has not provided public proof of its accusation that Syria furnished Scud missiles to Hizbullah (IMRA, 7/17/10).
Let us first dispose of the assessment of Israeli intelligence. The journalist, Zvi Bar-El of Haaretz, lumped in military and non-military intelligence. His points are valid, although in the case of Scuds, the IDF may feel that showing the proof is tantamount to disclosing its means and sources of intelligence. These criticisms of Israeli intelligence merit special discussion among Israelis, but are irrelevant to the UNIFIL problem.
The UNIFIL problem is a typical Middle East and UN mess. Truth is elusive.
(1) Arabs commit aggression, but the prejudiced world does not care.
(2) Israel failed to pursue the war far enough to accomplish anything lasting, but went far enough to get into trouble. [Same in Gaza, later.]
(3) The UN sets up a ceasefire that enables the aggressor build-up.
(4) UN peacekeepers are too few, too dependent upon national contingents, too poorly armed, and too biased to be effective.
(5) The UN and the leftist Israeli press fail or refuse to understand that Hizbullah is officially part of the government and unofficially dominates it and the Lebanese Army. The UN never should have given the Lebanese Army a role in curbing its Hizbullah allies.
(6) It is all right to report what the various parties assert, but readers deserve clues about the parties’ prejudices and ways. Jihadists are aggressors and deceivers. Accepting blame is difficult, but Arab culture has particular difficulty accepting blame. Arab culture and that of neighboring Muslim states accuse without basis and along conspiracy lines, a reaction that is spreading into Western culture. Journalists should question the accusations. Arabs do find the use of dogs offensive.
(7) Investigation is needed, but who can be entrusted with it? UN investigations reflect their components’ national and ideological biases. We have reported that mortal flaw in the Goldstone investigation. Lebanon is a party to the controversy. Israeli governments have their appeasers and military blind spots. Besides, who in the world trusts any other group, unless it is prejudiced in the same way? Who could get in, to investigate, without having to fight their way in?
There are IDF photographs of Hizbullah installations. To me, they are fuzzy. If the IDF can make them clear to other intelligence agencies, that would be a start in determining the situation in those villages.
As earlier reports show, Hizbullah bought up southern Lebanese villages and moved in Shiites whom it could trust. We know that Hizbullah has smuggled in arms, contrary to the truce. Hizbullah does use human shields. Therefore, while a court might not be able to gather sufficient proof for a verdict, we can. It is fair to conclude that Hizbullah has thoroughly violated the UN ceasefire. Israel would have a right to act on that, not that I am suggesting that it does or how it should.
We end, here, with a further flaw in Mideast agreements. They lack much on how to proceed when the agreement fails. Who will acknowledge that Security Council Resolution 1701 failed?
(For prior article on UNIFIL, click here )