Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Turning Lebanon into another Iraq

Green Left Weekly (Australia) August 2, 2006On July 23, defence minister Brendan Nelson announced that Canberra is willing to contribute armed Australian soldiers to a “robust” (meaning armed and prepared to carry out combat operations) international “peacekeeping” force to “stablise” Lebanon. The following day, PM John Howard said that “if asked” (by Washington, presumably) he would be willing to commit Australian troops to such a multinational military force.

“If the world community is serious, it will put together a force of tens of thousands. That force will act as an effective buffer, and it will have the power and the will to disarm Hezbollah”, Howard told Perth radio station 6PR on July 27. He added that his government would only commit Australian troops to Lebanon if they were a small part of a large international military force.

On July 24, the US and Israel called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to lead a multinational “stablisation” force in southern Lebanon, but NATO officials said the US-led military alliance was already overstreched with military missions in the Balkans, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since then, US officials have proposed that the foreign “stabilisation” force be led by France and Turkey, both of which have said they would only consider sending troops to Lebanon once a ceasefire is agreed between Israel and Hezbollah and the force’s mandate is specified and approved by the UN Security Council and the Lebanese government, which Hezbollah is a part of.

There is already a UN “peacekeeping” force in southern Lebanon — the 1900-soldier UN Interim Force in Lebanon. UNIFIL was set up in March 1978 to oversee a UN Security Council-ordered Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon that largely took place 22 years later — after Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance fighters inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli army at the end of the 1990s.

Israeli officials have criticised UNIFIL for not enforcing US-sponsored Security Council resolution 1559 — adopted in 2004 with abstentions by China and Russia — calling on the Lebanese government, not UNIFIL, to disarm “all Lebanese militias”. Israel’s demand that this UN resolution be enforced stands in stark contrast to its adamant refusal for the last 29 years to comply with Security Council resolutions demanding it end its illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Syria’s Golan Heights.

While UN officials and most foreign leaders have called for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, Washington and Canberra have publicly backed Israel’s desire to keep bombing Lebanon’s cities until a US-supported military force of up to 10,000 foreign soldiers can be inserted to protect Israel’s illegal reoccupation of southern Lebanon from Hezbollah’s resistance fighters.

During her visit to Israel on July 24, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly told Israel’s leaders that Washington wants to eventually place a 30,000-soldier multinational force into Lebanon to “assist” the Lebanese army to disarm Hezbollah — which is part of the very government that this army is supposed to take its orders from!

Hezbollah leaders have already said they will resist any attempt to disarm their guerrilla fighters while Israel continues to occupy Lebanese territory.

While Washington, Canberra and Tel Aviv describe Hezbollah as a “terrorist organisation”, it is a legal political party in Lebanon, with nearly a third of the members of the country’s parliament. It enjoys widespread support among Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims, who make up 40% of the country’s 3 million inhabitants.

“Although the group’s military training programs have dwindled since the civil war ended in 1990, and it is estimated to have no more than 500 to 600 crack troops, it can call on tens of thousands of reservists whose will and loyalty are assured”, the July 25 Toronto Star observed. It added that “even a fighting force such as NATO would have difficulty disarming a guerrilla group that could strike, and melt seamlessly into the population at will”.

That, of course, is the same problem that the 140,000 US-led foreign occupation forces are facing in their failed attempt to “stabilise” Iraq. Top US military commanders now privately admit that Washington’s bloody counter-insurgency war in Iraq will last at least another 10 years.

Washington’s plan to create a multinational military force to “stabilise” Lebanon is aimed at creating another “coalition of the willing” to fight another bloody, prolonged and unwinnable counter-insurgency war in the Middle East. It will not bring any peace to Lebanon. Rather, it will turn it into another Iraq.

From Green Left Weekly, August 2, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

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This entry was posted on 1 August, 2006 by in Australia, Empire, War and Terror, Israel, Lebanon, UN, USA.

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