The French government had been expected to lead an international force of 15,000 into southern Lebanon, but on August 20 pulled back from its commitment, saying it could send only 200 combat engineers instead of thousands of troops Paris had initially promised.
In the past, when peacekeeping missions were not properly defined, weve seen major failures, said French foreign ministry spokesperson Agnès Romatet-Espagne. There are the bad memories of Bosnia. This time we want the answers beforehand, including whether the peacekeepers will be expected to disarm Hezbollah.
Romatet-Espagne was referring to peace initiatives by European Union powers, especially the French and German governments, in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans in the 1990s, which were de facto sabotaged by Washington. Through that course, the U.S. rulers humiliated their allies in Europe, which came to be seen as incapable of stopping the massacres in Yugoslavia. This course also rationalized a massive U.S.-led intervention in Bosnia, which helped Washington strengthen its domination in Europe. (For more see How U.S. imperialism, allies fueled Yugoslav war in January 9 Militant.)
The Italian government said August 20 it would commit 3,000 troops to lead the international force. Italian prime minister Romano Prodi then said Rome would only deploy its troops at the end of broad consultations with the French, German, and Turkish governments.
Tel Aviv is also demanding a veto over which governments may send troops as part of the UN force. We will not agree that countries which do not have relations with Israel will participate in the multinational force, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert reportedly told the Israeli Security Cabinet. This would rule out soldiers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh, which have all offered troops.
On August 11 the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that has established a tenuous cease-fire following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombing campaign throughout the country killed more than 1,100, wounded 3,700, and forced about 1 million to flee their homes.
But faced with a much stronger than expected response from militias of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which it had intended to smash, Tel Aviv accepted the UN resolution. In addition to Hezbollahs ability to fire thousands of rockets into Israel, the Washington Post reported, the IDF was surprised by the effectiveness of Hezbollah and its missile armaments, which hit an Israeli ship, may have downed a helicopter, and penetrated about 20 of Israels most modern tanks. According to an article in the August 20 New York Times, Hezbollah used advanced antitank missiles, including Russian Metis-M and Kornet missiles that were sold to the government of Syria and passed on to Hezbollah.
The UN resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups other than those of the Lebanese government, no sales or supply or arms to nongovernmental forces, and the removal of foreign forces in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is sending 15,000 soldiers to the area below the Litani River, the center of the fighting, to be joined by the projected 15,000 UN troops.
Until this force is deployed, the Israeli government claims it has the right to continue to carry out military actions inside Lebanon.
On August 19 the IDF conducted a commando raid in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Israels foreign ministry spokesperson, Mark Regev, said the raid aimed to stop the transport of arms to Hezbollah. Had the Lebanese forces, augmented by international troops, been on the border-crossing points with Syria the way they should have been, he said, then our attack would have been superfluous…. We cannot have an open border with arms coming from Syria to rearm Hezbollah.
Hezbollahor the Party of Godis a capitalist party with two seats in the Lebanese cabinet that won prominence for its role in the fight against the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation (see article in this issue for more on the roots and character of Hezbollah).
The slowness in putting together the UN force has highlighted Tel Avivs failure to achieve its goal of disabling Hezbollah with its own forces.
For four weeks we failed to defend ourselves against daily bombardments against our cities, Yuval Steinitz, a member of the Israeli opposition Likud Party and former chairman of parliaments defense committee, told the Washington Post. This is a failure that never happened before.
Hundreds of members of the IDFs Spearhead Paratroop Brigade have criticized the cold feet of the decision-makers in an open letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the questionwere we called up for nothing? the letter said. In order to face the next battle preparedand this may happen soona thorough and fundamental change must take place.
In the last six years, there hadnt been any preparation for putting soldiers into combat, said Shaul Givoli, an Israeli retired major general, according to the August 19 Washington Post.
One of the main conclusions of the war against Hezbollah will be the fact that the fighting abilities of the ground forces deployed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Lebanon have been blunted by years of police action in the territories, noted Zeev Schiff, military analyst for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He was referring to the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The character of the IDFknown for its blitzkrieg methods, encircling movements deep inside enemy territory, and the ability to bring about a quick and decisive conclusion to the fightinghas been spoiled by years of involvement in operations that tied it down.
Schiff recommended a sharper division of labor between the army and police to better safeguard the interests of the Israeli rulers. Many of the advantages and operational qualities of the IDF have been lost over the years because the army has been fighting the wrong warfrom a military point of view.
U.S. military blocks Iranian arms shipment to Hezbollah
We are for whatever strengthens the confidence and capacity of the toilers
Letter from SWP leader on Israels murderous war on Lebanon
Fascism: not a form of capitalism but a way to maintain capitalist rule
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