Monday, July 17, 2006

European foreign policy at work

As expected, the G8 Summit has come to an end without achieving anything. What could it possibly achieve. It was bad enough as G7 but the addition of Russia (hardly one of the world's leading developed or, for that matter, free economies) any chance of agreement disappeared like autumnal mist.

Still, most of them (not Russia or France) have now pronounced on the Middle Eastern crisis, pointing the finger of blame at Syria and Iran, though, I gather, one of Tony Blair's spokespersons has tried to play that down.

In the Wall Street Journal Europe Gerald M. Steinberg, Director of the Conflict Management Programme atthe BarIlan University, has directed attention to another aspect of European involvement in the current mess.

The problem with the article [subscription only] is one of definition. Mr Steinberg writes a good deal about France and her allies and refers to something he calls "Europe's reaction".

The story (or, rather, this particular chapter of it) startsin 2000 when "the European Union was an enthusiastic supporterof unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the security zone in southern Lebanon". As it happens, many Israelis were supporters as well but what made Europe's or, to be quite precise, France's interference so interesting is the following:
"In detailed talks that took place at the French ambassador's residence in affa, in which I participated as an academic consultant, the Europeans assured us that once Israel retreated, Hezbollah would lose its raison d'etre as a 'militia' and transform itself into a political party. France and its partners would send peacekeepers to prevent terror and missile attacks against Israel, help the Lebanese army take control of the border, and disarm Hezbollah."
None of this happened. Hezbollah claimed the withdrawal as a victory and proceeded to accumulate rockets and other arms along the Lebanese border. Syria remained in Lebanon as long as possible and even after withdrawing its troops kept agents in place. And continued to arm and train Hezbollah, which has also been receiving arms from Iran while the EU3 wasted three years in fruitless negotiations that only played into the hands of the Mullahs.

The peacekeepers did not materialize. Hezbollah kept lobbing rockets, crossing the border and causing explosions as well as indulging in a spot or two of kidnapping.

We all know what the European reaction until the end of this week was to Israel finally deciding to act over the Lebanese border and, naturally, hoping that this action will have its effect in Iran as well.

France, who was remarkably silent for several years about Syrian troops in Lebanon, led the huffing and puffing about "a disproportionate act of war", "entirely sovereign country, a friend of France" and so on.

As Mr Steinberg points out, there had been no condemnation of the many acts of war against another sovereign country and also supposedly a friend of France.
"But if European leaders are serious about preventing instability and promoting their own economic and sercurity interests, they will also have to share the costs of containing terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. To help resolve the immediate crisis and prevent further damage to Lebanon's fragile economic and political structure, Europe's leaders can stiffen Beirut's backbone by conditioning aid to the release of the kidnapped Israeli solders.

Cease-fire initiatives must lead toHezbollah's disarmament. By tying further economic assistance to an end to terror attacks, Europe can actually help create the basis for long-term stability."
Failing all that, we might consider not funding directly or indirectly any terrorist organizations in the future.

I see SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) has called for peacekeeping troops to be sent to the Israeli-Lebanese border. A swell idea. Were there not peacekeeping troops on the Suez canal once upon a time?

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