Collective Interests

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

At the end of the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, flanked by Prime Minister Tony Blair, put forward the idea of obtaining a quick cease-fire in the present Lebanon conflict, and deploying international forces to stabilize the situation. President Bush was rightfully unimpressed. To the undiscerning eye, there might be something attractive in the suggestion. But in order to make any evaluation of a new U.N. role in Lebanon, it is necessary first to understand that the past role of the U.N. is one of the main sources of the present predicament that the world faces.

For the last 25 years, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly demanded in resolution after resolution that all foreign forces leave Lebanese territory.When the Israeli government completed its withdrawal from its southern security zone in 2000, one might have expected that this international principle would have been asserted, and a concerted U.N. effort begun to rid Lebanon of the Syrian Army and other foreign forces — notably those of Iran.

Israel’s withdrawal to what the U.N. called the “blue line” was recognized by Mr. Annan as a full Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. His legal determination was in fact confirmed by the U.N. Security Council on July 27, 2000 with the adoption of Resolution 1310. But the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hezbollah, claimed that Israel actually had more land to give to Lebanon. In particular, they wanted a tiny sliver of Golan territory — called the Shebaa farms — that had been previously disputed between Israel and Syria.


This outstanding grievance, which had no international backing, was used to justify Hezbollah’s continuing war against Israel. But rather than forcefully reject Hezbollah’s stand, different U.N. agencies seemed to treat the organization as a legitimate party to the conflict of Lebanon with Israel. It was disturbing to see Mr. Annan shaking hands with Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, on June 20, 2000, during a visit to Beirut.The U.N. strategy was to give Hezbollah some recognition and thereby obtain good behavior on its part. To make matters worse, UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force, sent liason officers to Hezbollah. But this approach only legitimized an organization that prior to 9/11 was widely viewed as more dangerous than Al Qaeda.

What made Hezbollah’s decision to maintain its dispute with Israel so dangerous was Iran’s decision to deploy medium range missiles in southern Lebanon, aimed at Israel’s northern cities. In 2002, Lebanese media reported the arrival of Iranian Revolutionary Guards to train Hezbollah on the use of these new weapons, known as the Fajr 3 and Fajr 5 — which unlike the older Soviet-made Katyusha rockets had a range of up to 70 kilometers. Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon. But, in return, not only had it acquired a more powerful Hezbollah, but also Iranian forces taking up positions directly on its borders.

The situation was eerily reminiscent of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Then, the Soviet Union had only unreliable intercontinental ballistic missiles for striking the US, so they positioned shorter range missiles in nearby Cuba instead. Today, the Iranians have a 1300 kilometer range Shahhab missile for striking Israel, and are working feverishly to improve its capabilities while investing in longer range missiles aimed at Western Europe. Indeed, as Israeli military intelligence has disclosed, Iran recently procured the 2,500 kilometer range BM-25 missile from North Korea.


Teheran doubtless calculates that, if the West tries to take measures against its nuclear program, its Lebanese arsenal could hold Israel hostage, while in the future it can give pause to vulnerable European countries in NATO, as well. The difference between 1962 and 2006 is that, while President Kennedy made sure that the Soviets withdrew their missiles from Cuba, the international community has done nothing about the growing missile threat in Lebanon, or the newer threats that are presently emerging.

International attention was drawn again to Lebanon in 2005 after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri by Syrian agents and the “Cedar Revolution” that followed. The U.N. Security Council belatedly called yet again — in Resolution 1559 — for all non-Lebanese forces to leave Lebanon. This time it added a call “for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.” It also reminded the Lebanese government of the Security Council’s previous call in 2004 “to ensure its effective authority throughout the south, including the deployment of Lebanese armed forces.” The U.N. Security Council wanted the Lebanese Army sitting on the Israeli-Lebanese border — not Hezbollah.

Had U.N. resolutions on Lebanon been implemented, then no Israeli soldiers would have been kidnapped in Northern Israel this month and there would be no Hezbollah rockets raining on Israeli civilians in Haifa, Nahariah, Safed, and Tiberias. Those advocating a cease-fire in the present crisis and the deployment of international forces forget that U.N. forces are deployed at present in Southern Lebanon. Israeli soldiers have in fact been kidnapped and killed before right under the noses of this UNIFIL force. There is no reason to believe that a new U.N. force would be nay different; in fact, it would provide a shield for Hezbollah as it rearms from the present round of fighting.


So what is to be done? It is important to identify what should be the aims of the entire Western alliance — including Israel — in the current conflict. The chief goals are simply enough stated. First, full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the complete dismantling of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the Israeli-Lebanon border instead. The Syrian diversionary argument that their war is against the “Israeli occupation” fall flat on its face in light of Israel’s previous full withdrawal from both Lebanon and Gaza — which are the main theaters of the present war. The removal of all Iranian forces and equipment from Lebanese territory, along with any lingering Syrian presence.

At the same time, there is a need to recognize that this is a regional war. Iran is seeking to dominate Iraq, particularly its southern Shia areas — the provinces where British troops are deployed — and hopes to encircle both Israel and the Sunni heartland of the Arab world. It is striking that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states have chastised Hezbollah in the present crisis, though it should no be surprising. That leaves Syria as Iran’s main Arab ally in this effort. There is no question that Iran’s main aim is to dominate the oil-producing areas by agitating the Shia populations of Kuwait, Bahrain, and the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia.

Defeating Iran’s opening shot in this Middle East war is not just Israel’s interest, but the collective interest of the entire civilized world.

If the U.N. truly functioned properly, then the Security Council would be pressing to halt Iran instead of stopping Israel. Obtaining a quick cease-fire that leaves the Hezbollah infrastructure in place accomplishes nothing, except that it would represent a huge victory for Iran as it presses for regional hegemony and control of the oil resources of the Middle East which the world is unfortunately still overly dependent upon.

Mr. Gold is the president of the Jerusalem Centers for Public Affairs, and served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. from 1997 to 1999.

The New York Sun

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