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NY Times mistake on peacekeepers in Lebanon

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  • Greg Cannon
    This New York Times article about international reluctance to send peacekeepers to the Israel-Lebanon border neglets to mention that two countries, Indonesia
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 24, 2006
      This New York Times article about international
      reluctance to send peacekeepers to the Israel-Lebanon
      border neglets to mention that two countries,
      Indonesia and Malaysia, have in fact stated their
      willingness to send peacekeepers. Of course, neither
      of them have diplomatic relations with Israel which
      would probably make it difficult to get UN approval to
      be part of the peacekeeping force. But simply not
      mentioning their statements on the issue seems bad
      journalism to me. And I do not mean to say that
      sending in peacekeepers would necessarily be a good
      solution. Here's the Times article, followed by an
      article on Indonesia & Malaysia's statement.


      July 24, 2006
      Nations Reluctant to Commit Troops to Lebanon

      PARIS, July 24 — Support is building quickly for an
      international military force to be placed in southern
      Lebanon, but there remains a small problem: where will
      the troops come from?

      The United States has ruled out its soldiers
      participating, NATO says it is overstretched, Britain
      feels its troops are overcommitted and Germany says it
      is willing to participate only if Hezbollah, the
      Lebanese militia which it would police, agrees to it,
      a highly unlikely development.

      “All the politicians are saying, ‘Great, great’ to the
      idea of a force, but no one is saying whose soldiers
      will be on the ground,” said one senior European
      official. “Everyone will volunteer to be in charge of
      the logistics in Cyprus.”

      There has been strong verbal support for such a force
      in public, but also private concerns that soldiers
      would be seen as allied to Israel and would have to
      fight Hezbollah guerrillas who do not want foreigners,
      let alone the Lebanese Army, coming between themselves
      and the Israelis.

      There is also the burden of history. France — which
      has called the idea of a force premature — and the
      United States are haunted by their last participation
      in a multinational force in Lebanon after the Israeli
      invasion in 1982, when they became belligerents in the
      Lebanese civil war and tangled fatally with Hezbollah.

      They withdrew in defeat after Hezbollah’s suicide
      bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut in October
      1983, which killed 241 Marines and 56 French soldiers.

      Israel’s own public position toward an international
      force has been welcoming, but skeptical, insisting
      that the force be capable of military missions, not
      just peace-keeping.

      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested that the force,
      with military capability and fighting experience,
      could be made up of soldiers from European and Arab
      states, while his defense minister, Amir Peretz, spoke
      of soldiers from NATO countries.

      But Israel senses no great willingness among leading
      European countries to take part, and Israeli officials
      emphasize that they will not accept an end to
      hostilities until clear policy goals are met.

      For the moment, at least, Israel is laying out an
      ambitious, if perhaps unrealistic, view of what the
      force would do. Israel wants it to keep Hezbollah away
      from the border, allow the Lebanese government and
      army to take control over all of its territory, and
      monitor Lebanon’s borders to ensure that Hezbollah is
      not resupplied with weapons.

      Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, laid out the
      goals in a meeting on Sunday with a British Foreign
      Office minister, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
      Steinmeier of Germany and Foreign Minister Philippe
      Douste-Blazy of France. Ms. Livni told them that
      Israel’s goal was to disarm Hezbollah and that either
      the Israeli Army or an international force would have
      to do it, said officials familiar with the meeting.

      The Europeans, by contrast, including Britain, France
      and Germany, envision a much less robust international
      buffer force, one that would follow a cease-fire and
      operate with the consent of the Lebanese government to
      support the deployment of its army in southern

      Such a scenario would mean that Hezbollah, which is
      part of the Lebanese government, would have to be part
      of a decision that led to its own disarming and the
      protection of Israel, a scenario that European
      officials see as far-fetched.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who began a trip
      to the region today with a quick first stop in Beirut,
      will host an international meeting on the crisis in
      Rome on Wednesday, when an multinational force will be
      a prime topic of conversation. But she already has
      ruled out the participation of American troops.

      Today, Germany’s defense minister, Franz Josef Jung,
      said that Berlin would be willing to participate if
      both Israel and Hezbollah requested German
      participation and if certain tough, and potentially
      insurmountable, conditions were met. These include a
      cease-fire and the release of the captured Israeli

      “We could not refuse a peace mission of this nature if
      these conditions were met, and if requests were
      directed to us,” Mr. Jung told German television
      station N24.

      In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped a
      plan, including an international force, a mutual
      cease-fire and the release of the captured soldiers,
      could be negotiated and announced in the next few

      “If someone’s got a better plan, I’d like to hear it,”
      he said. “It’s the only one I’ve got and I’m trying to
      make it happen.”

      But Britain has also made clear in private diplomatic
      exchanges that with thousands of its troops in Iraq,
      Afghanistan and the Balkans, it could not be counted
      on to send troops into still another theater.

      As for France, which already has troops in Lebanon as
      part of the United Nations peacekeeping force known as
      Unifil, Mr. Douste-Blazy left his meetings with
      Israeli leaders on Sunday convinced that the idea of a
      new international force for Lebanon was “premature,”
      French officials said.

      The European Union foreign policy chief, Javier
      Solana, said today in Brussels that an international
      force would not be “an easy force to deploy,” but
      added that talks were under way about such a force
      under a United Nations Security Council mandate.

      “I think several member states of the European Union
      will be ready to provide all necessary assistance,” he
      said, but did not name the countries or what they
      might be prepared to do.

      Mr. Solana is said to be wary of a NATO-led force,
      another senior European Union official said. “NATO is
      too identified with the United States,” the official
      said. “It would be Iraq all over again.”

      At NATO headquarters, officials said they were taken
      by surprise by comments of Israeli officials that they
      would welcome a NATO-led force to secure their border.

      “No request has been made to NATO,” said James
      Appathurai, the NATO spokesman. “The possibility, the
      shape, the structure of any international force — none
      of them has been seriously addressed.”

      In an ambitious new mission, NATO is due to take over
      military operations from the American-led coalition in
      Afghanistan at the end of the month.

      The challenge of creating a viable international force
      to secure Israel’s border with Lebanon was captured by
      Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the Israeli daily
      newspaper Yediot Aharonot. The European foreign
      ministers were enthusiastic, he said.

      “They only had one small condition for the force to be
      made up of soldiers from another country,” Mr. Barnea
      wrote. “The Germans recommended France; the French
      recommended Egypt, and so on. It is doubtful whether
      there is a single country in the West currently
      volunteering to lay down its soldiers on Hezbollah’s

      Elaine Sciolino reported from Paris for this article
      and Steven Erlanger from Jerusalem. Alan Cowell
      contributed reporting from London.


      Last Updated 21/07/2006, 19:03:27

      Indonesia and Malaysia say they could send troops as
      part of a UN deployment to the Middle East as Asia
      showed mounting concern about the conflict and urged
      the international community to intervene.

      With the bombardments well into a second week,
      countries in the region warned of spiralling violence
      if world powers failed to check the current conflict.

      Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has
      written to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan to express
      concern and pledge Jakarta's readiness to contribute
      to a possible UN force there, his spokesman Dino Patti
      Djalal said.

      "The president expressed support for the formation of
      an international force under a UN mandate and
      Indonesia is willing to participate in such a force by
      contributing at least a battalion."

      The letter followed his call on Tuesday for a
      cease-fire between Israel and the Lebanon-based
      Hezbollah militia, whose capture of two Israeli
      soldiers 10 days ago triggered the violence.

      Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority
      nation, has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

      Mr Annan has called for an immediate cessation of
      hostilities and for an expanded contingent of
      peace-keeping troops to be deployed in the region.

      G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany,
      Japan, Italy, Russia and the United States have also
      proposed an international stabilisation force for
      Lebanon, where the UN currently has a 2,000-strong

      Muslim-majority Malaysia says it is also considering
      sending troops, pending UN Security Council approval.

      Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak says that Malaysia,
      the current chair of the world's largest grouping of
      Islamic countries, the Organisation of the Islamic
      Conference, was well placed to send soldiers.

      Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar added: "The
      international community ... should make every effort
      to ensure that these aggressive military actions by
      Israel do not lead to a widening of the conflict
      involving other countries."

      "It is no good for the United Nations to say they are
      concerned about the humanitarian catastrophe. What are
      they doing about the humanitarian catastrophe? That is
      important," he said.

      More than 330 people in Lebanon have been killed and
      hundreds of thousands have fled their homes fearing
      that the Jewish state could mount a full-scale ground

      At least 29 Israeli soldiers and civilians have been
      killed in the conflict.
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