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More on that international contingent

Posted by Helen Friday, August 18, 2006 , , ,

The egregious Mark Malloch Brown, our own particular super-tranzi, chaired a meeting yesterday to sort out those international troops that will join the Lebanese on the border with Israel.

There has, in the meantime, been a certain amount of disagreement on whether Hezbollah is keeping a low profile or not, south of the Litani river, as detailed by Fausta’s Blog, which has detected differing stories on the BBC and France-2. (And on the subject of Hezbollah's presence, little has been heard in the MSM about their colleagues from Fox News, apparently kidnapped by that peace-loving organization.)

There are touching pictures of the Lebanese soldiers moving into position held for the last couple of weeks by the Israelis (kind of) and children shaking hands with the soldiers. All very jolly except for the slight discrepancy in timing.

The Lebanese troops are being stationed in Tyre and other places for the first time in decades. So, um, who was there in the last five or six years, even assuming that the Israelis occupied much of that until 2000? Could it be Hezbollah, the militia that was supposed to have been disarmed several years ago? And what would the Lebanese military have done if the Israelis had not gone into the country three weeks ago? Carried on as before, one assumes. In other words, the IDF has made it possible for the Lebanese government to send Lebanese troops into parts of Lebanon. What do you know about that?

Hezbollah, in the meantime, has expressed anger at video tapes that show Lebanese and Israeli soldiers sharing friendly glasses of tea.

Still, Lebanon cannot protect its borders on its own while there is a well-armed and well-trained militia operating within its territory. A new version of UNIFIL is needed and, while there is some talk of various countries offering troops, little of it is official.

To start with, Britain and the United States are keeping to their previous refusals, agreeing, nonetheless, to supply logistical support (no doubt from Cyprus). France is sending 200 soldiers, far fewer than expected, though there might be some officers as well. The reason is that, apparently, President Chirac and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie (who had always been a little leery of the whole proposal), have realized that Hezbollah is not going to disarm and may well start shooting at the UN, that is, French troops. Naturally, l’escroc Chirac had not thought of it when he pushed through the cease-fire resolution, promising French peacekeeping forces when doubts were raised by Israel and the United States.

Italy says it may well send as many 3,000 troops though it is not clear how that is going to be achieved, given the financial straits the country’s armed forces have recently found themselves in.

Germany, who was not going to send troops, no, no, no, has now decided that it might do so after all but there is no agreement on the subject. There would be a land and naval element to the German contingent but numbers are so far unknown.

A few other countries have already volunteered. As Al-Jazeera reports:

“Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal had each offered at least one battalion, and Denmark two warships, one official, asking not to be named, said on Thursday.”

None of this seems particularly substantial except for the Danish warships. The numbers might go up – there are always troops available in the other four countries - but how the whole force is to be co-ordinated remains to be seen.

Another problem has arisen. Two of the countries in the forefront of those offers, Malaysia and Indonesia, do not recognize Israel as a state and the Israelis have objected to those troops being used on the border. Curiously enough, the Malaysian foreign minister does not see any difficulties:

“"We're going to be on Lebanese territory ... We're not going to be on Israeli territory," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.”,

adding that Israel should have no say in the make-up of the UNIFIL troops, an unhelpful attitude at best. Of course, if you do not recognize one of the countries involved, the question of territory becomes moot. Besides, the peacekeeping forces will have to deal with the possibility (put at its lowest) of Hezbollah firing yet more rockets into Israel. Would Malaysian or Indonesian troops, who have been told that Israel is not really a country and has no right to exist, be all that bothered by that?

All in all, another fine mess for the international community.