NY Times mistake on peacekeepers in Lebanon
- 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
By ELAINE SCIOLINO and STEVEN ERLANGER
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 Hezbollahs suicide
bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut in October
1983, which killed 241 Marines and 56 French soldiers.
Israels own public position toward an international
force has been welcoming, but skeptical, insisting
that the force be capable of military missions, not
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 Lebanons borders to ensure that Hezbollah is
not resupplied with weapons.
Israels 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
Israels 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, Germanys 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
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 someones got a better plan, Id like to hear it,
he said. Its the only one Ive got and Im 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 Israels 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 Hezbollahs
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
"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.