As the fighting rages on in Lebanon, some people may ask, where is the United Nations in all of this? Isn't this the precise type of situation where
they should insert themselves to bring peace and to relieve the suffering of the civilians?
Well, it turns out that they are already there - have been, for more than 28 years. There is a group known as UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In
Lebanon) who have been there since March of 1978. With a total personnel force of approximately 2,500, and a budget of $100 million/year, their
mandate is three-fold:
- Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon
- Restore international peace and security
- Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.
They were initially formed as an answer to Operation Litani
. Their role has expanded to
include removal of landmines (I thought landmines were outlawed?), providing humanitarian assistance , and assisting displaced persons.
But what would we be without conflict? Just another boring report. Israel has voiced concern that UNIFIL is not concerned with the safety of it's
soldiers, and points to an October, 2000 incident where 3 Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah in the Shebaa Farms area of the Golan Heights.
Accusations abound from several sources that UNIFIL was complicit in the abductions, bolstered by a videotape taken by Indian peacekeepers one day
after the abductions. Vehicles with fake UN license plates, and UN uniforms, were videotaped. Of course, the UN denies any complicity. But the
relatives of the 3 soldiers, who died from injuries sustained during the abduction, do not believe Kofi Annan, and have launched a lawsuit against the
UN, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Lebanon for their parts in the abduction.
Perhaps it is a good thing that UNIFIL's charter is set to expire on July 31, 2006. The region does not really need more "observers"; after all, we
now have embedded press. And at $100 million/year, they can do a much better job of observing than can UNIFIL.