That famous UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is getting there slowly. 1,000 Italian troops are supposed to have landed by yesterday evening, the eventual plan being 2,450 Italian ground troops. These will be deployed in the next two months and command will be assumed (if the French agree to give it up) next year.
Meanwhile of the reluctantly promised 2,000 French troops the same 250 that deployed last week are there and others are awaited. UNIFIL is commanded by Major General Alain Pellegrini, who is French.
The German naval deployment has been put on hold as the request from Lebanon had not yet arrived. Lebanon is supposed to ask the UN who is then supposed to pass the request on to the relevant country.
Indonesia said it would send 1,000 troops as Israel has withdrawn its objections. Indonesia is not just predominantly Muslim but is also a country that has refused to acknowledge Israel’s existence, which makes its role as a peacekeeper potentially very interesting.
Turkey is considering whether to participate, though the tiny Armenian community of Lebanon has protested because of the 1915 massacres. While those massacres were horrible, one rather wonders why an old historical event should weigh more heavily in the international community’s considerations than more recent attacks on a country that had been set up by the United Nations.
The UN has said that Israel should withdraw its forces as soon as the international contingent reaches 5,000 – some way to go. But the numbers matter less than the mandate. General Pellegrini may announce that the new UNIFIL has greater powers than the old one did but, in actual fact, neither the Lebanese army (despite all the huffing and puffing) nor the UN forces intend to disarm Hezbollah, who will, undoubtedly do what all terrorist organizations do when the UN moves in: rearm behind the shield of blue berets and blue helmets.