Recently, an effort was extended at the UN to expand and enhance the mandate of UNIFIL. This issue was limply covered in the media, although it does touch on some principled issues.
UN security council recently (August 30) adopted resolution 2373 extending the mandate of United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) for an extra year, with changes. Changes were made from the original 1701 resolution, to enhance and expand the capabilities of UNIFIL, authorizing it to “take all necessary action to ensure that southern Lebanon was not used for hostile activities” and “to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties”.
This hazy terminology hides the real cause of concern – Iran backed Hezbollah. The Israeli haaretz newspaper reveals that Hezbollah was omitted by name due to Russia’s threat of a veto, but Hezbollah was the drive of this resolution. As the US envoy to the UN, Ambassador Haley, explained extensively in usun.state.gov: “The United States will not sit by and watch Hezbollah strengthen itself for the next war. We will not be passive as Iran makes a mockery of this Council’s word”. She details the change in the mandate “to establish a more visible presence, step up its patrols and inspections to disrupt Hezbollah’s illicit activities and stop the flow of illegal weapons into the country”. Ambassador Haley also summarized “conditions in South Lebanon are very dangerous today. Clouds of war are gathering”.
In essence, up to now UNIFIL backed off from any confrontation with the Hezbollah, and turned away from roadblocks set up by Hezbollah. The result being that instead of excising its mandate, it caved in to Hezbollah. Thus the Hezbollah could continue its activities unabated. The Hezbollah got so cocky, that they even allowed media tours full view of their armed existence in Southern Lebanon, as reported by AFP correspondent in his article along on a Hezbollah tour, in full violation of UN resolutions. One photographer even coined the phrase “it is like Maddam Tussaud’s with Hezbollah fighters”.
As the algemeiner expands, in an article by Ambassador Haley, the UN mandate change is to be considered in the context of growing efforts to counter the Hezbollah. In an additional article by algemeiner, this issue touches on the bigger topic of the growing determination to counter Iran’s attempts to create a Shia controlled land corridor between itself and the Mediterranean coast.
The algemeiner article is very optimistic, but it overlooks one of the most important aspects. If up to now, despite resolution 1701, UNIFIL out of fear resisted any confrontation with the Hezbollah, there are no guarantees that resolution 2373 will make any difference. Tougher words do not necessarily implant more courage in the UN forces. It is a matter of concern when an armed militia like the Hezbollah over-rides a UN resolution by instilling fear.