US-French Ceasefire
Agreement Not Good Enough
By Terrell E. Arnold

According to Associated Press reports, the United States and France agreed Friday on the terms of a UN Security Council resolution to end the fighting in Lebanon. The main thrust of the agreed language is an awkwardly worded call for an" immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." This language is said to permit Israel to defend itself if attacked, but if the deal is strictly followed, Hezbollah would not be permitted to fight back if the Israelis attacked alleging self-defense.
The overall thrust of the proposed resolution would be to create a system for working around Hezbollah in Lebanon. While Israel appears to have been consulted on the terms--hence the language permitting self-defense--there have been no indications that Hezbollah was or would be a party to the agreement. Rather, the government of Lebanon would be assigned the task of disarming Hezbollah, and Lebanon would agree to and enforce rules on the acquisition of arms and ammunition that would be designed to prevent Hezbollah from importing them from abroad, e.g., from Syria or Iran.
This resolution would create a buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon that extends from the present border region some 20 miles into Lebanon to the north side of the Litani River. The resolution would provide for delineating the Israeli-Lebanese border, notably clearing up the problem of the Lebanese territory known as Shebaa Farms that the Israelis held onto when they withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
The present UN force, UNIFIL, would monitor the end of hostilities. Once the Israelis and Lebanon agree on the principles, the UN Security Council would authorize a new peacekeeping force which would have the mission to "support the Lebanese armed forces and government in providing a secure environment and contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long term solution." This formulation gives Israel the means to delay fielding of an international force indefinitely, simply by refusing to agree to principles proposed by Hezbollah or the Lebanese government. Thus, if implemented in those terms, the cease-fire could give Israel extended occupation of the area south of the Litani River.
It will be interesting to see how this plays in Lebanon. The first problem with it is that there is no stated intent to include any representative of Hezbollah in the process. Hezbollah is about to be asked by Lebanese officials to disarm, but it is being, overtly at least, offered nothing for such an important concession. Something of value would be guaranteed freedom from capricious attack, including targeted assassination, by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and/or agents elsewhere such as the Biqaa Valley. That would prohibit such Israeli incursions as the raid into Lebanese territory that led to Hezbollah capture of the two Israeli IDF soldiers inside Lebanon.
Something of value would be recognition that the Lebanese Shi'a, including Hezbollah and Shi'a Amal, are roughly half of Lebanon's population, the majority of its Muslims, and full participants in the Lebanese political process. Nabih Berri, the long time head of Shi'a Amal and speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, appears to be acting for Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah and speaking for Lebanon in rejecting the US-French proposal. He says the proposal is short by at least seven points. The required terms include (1) an immediate cease-fire, (2) withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, (3) an immediate prisoner exchange (While Hezbollah has two Israeli prisoners, the Israelis hold thousands of Lebanese prisoners.), (4) takeover of control in the south by Lebanese forces, (5) fielding of an international force at the present Israeli-Lebanese frontier, (6) return of displaced Lebanese to their home areas, and (7) provision of an Israeli map of minefields left over from the previous Israeli occupation. Phase one of this plan would be immediate action on points 1-3.
The Berri proposal does not address key issues in the US-Canadian plan: The disarmament of Hezbollah and arrangements to prevent its reformation or rearmament, as well as formation of a Lebanese force that (it appears) would not include Hezbollah fighters. This is a complex political corner for both Prime Minister Siniora and Nabih Berri. They have avoided these issues in the Lebanese proposal because both know that such actions, if attempted, risk reviving civil war in Lebanon, the reopening of Muslim/Christian divisions that have plagued Lebanon for centuries, including most of the past twenty years. Given the new-found popularity of Nasrallah among Lebanese generally, actions to ignore or discredit Hezbollah could well cause the present government to fall, while re-igniting such divisions.
Neither plan appears overtly to recognize that Nasrallah, as leader of Hezbollah, is the leader of an important political party in Lebanon, a cleric of renown among Shi'a Muslims, and has growing stature among Muslims of both Shi'a and Sunni persuasions worldwide. Thus, for many Muslims, the failure to involve him personally in the settlement of this dispute would be the first sign that the drafters of a UN Security Council resolution do not really understand or care what has been going on here as the Muslim world sees it.
The US-French proposal misses an important opportunity. Hezbollah always has been primarily political in its focus. Its broad public service and public works performance in southern Lebanon is the root of its popularity among Lebanese Muslims; that, plus the fact that it is fighting Israel and the West in defense of Muslims and their values. Negotiation of a peace in Lebanon is a chance to move Hezbollah more decisively toward its political role. In the past few years it already has moved to a political position strong enough to hold two ministerial posts in the present government and to share political power equally with Shi'a Amal. While Israel may not like that, folding Hezbollah fighters legally into the Lebanese military force would both bring them under the law and improve the abilities of Lebanese forces to defend themselves.
In fact, ignoring the main elements of the Lebanese proposal, while failing to engage Nasrallah directly in the process of terminating the war in Lebanon, will label the peace as a connivance of outsiders who recognize none of the rights and interests of anyone other than Israel and the United States. That alone will make the peace fragile, and probably temporary, to say the least.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Deputy Director of the Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Planning, and as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College. He will welcome comment at



This Site Served by TheHostPros