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August 23, 2006
A Meaty Mandate, With A Caveat

The mandate for the expanded UNIFIL force turned out more robust than first thought. According to the Associated Press, it allows for offensive military action in support of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 (and 1559 by implication):

Proposed rules of engagement for an expanded UN force in southern Lebanon would allow troops to open fire in self-defense, protect civilians and back up the Lebanese army in preventing foreign forces or arms from crossing the border, according to a UN document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

The 20-page draft was circulated to potential troop-contributing countries last week by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is trying to get an additional 3,500 troops on the ground by the end of next week to strengthen the 2,000 overstretched UN peacekeepers already there.

The rules of engagement for the expanded force - which is authorized to grow to 15,000 - have held back some potential troop contributors - notably France - because of concerns that their soldiers would be required to disarm Hizbullah, which has controlled southern Lebanon.

The timing on this mandate brings into question France's sudden reversal on its participation in UNIFIL. The rules of engagement clearly intend on allowing UNIFIL the latitude of addressing all of the points in 1701. The requirement to actually shoot weapons when threats arise appears to have scared the French right out of the UNIFIL leadership position.

This may address some Israeli and Western concerns about the usefulness of the UNIFIL contingent. Unlike before, the UNSC will allow them to act as an actual military force with a specific set of mission goals rather than the lightly-armed bystanders they have been over the past several years. It even plans for an independent commander on the scene who can react in military fashion based on conditions on the ground, rather than acting as a conduit to a perpetually divided UNSC.

It does contain one flaw, perhaps unavoidable but a flaw nonetheless. The mandate specifically calls for these military actions to be taken at the request of the government of Lebanon. The AP does not include the exact language, but as described, it sounds as if the interdiction of illegal arms transfers could only occur with Fuad Siniora's approval. That would be very problematic for UNIFIL and for the Israelis, who expect the UNIFIL force to change the situation in the sub-Litani region. Siniora's previous support for Hezbollah strongly indicates that such approvals will not easily come from his government.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 23, 2006 4:51 AM

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Tracked on August 23, 2006 10:04 PM


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