The ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah defined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 is just that, a cessation of combat operations. As of the night of August 14, the ceasefire seems to be holding, with only a few skirmishes between Israeli forces and Hizballah fighters. While that is good news, the ceasefire has solved none of the problems – it has merely deferred them.
After a few weeks, we will likely begin to see the deployment of the Lebanese Army and the expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL, they’ve been there in “interim” status since 1978). They have the mandate to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. According to the resolution, the deployment of the international and Lebanese force will be “in parallel” with the withdrawal of Israeli troops. This will happen – Israel will be happy to leave southern Lebanon. Israel is not anxious to repeat their 18-year occupation of this area from 1982 to 2000 – and Hizballah will be glad to see them go. It’s what happens next that is important.
The resolution also calls for the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line (Israel-Lebanon border) to be “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL….” This will be particularly difficult. This passage is aimed at removing Hizballah elements from the south, especially the rocket launchers that were able to strike cities of northern Israel with over 4000 rockets. The problem with removing Hizballah equipment is that most of it was successfully hidden from the Israelis and the ineffective system of UNIFIL observation posts throughout southern Lebanon. I can’t imagine that the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL mounting any kind of serious effort to detect and remove it. As for Hizballah personnel, many of them are from this area. When you saw all the southern Lebanese villages in media coverage, you saw mainly women and children. Where were the men? They were off fighting the Israelis as part of Hizballah. Again, expecting the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL to remove them is just not realistic.
The resolution also calls for “no sales or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government.” I believe that not only has there been a constantt flow (or attempts) of armaments and funds from Iran via Syria throughout the conflict, but that there will continue to be resupply effort. Unless there is some sort of new inspection regime that will be imposed at the borders, the weapons and money will continue to flow to Hizballah.
Arms to Hizballah? Under the 1989 Taif Accords and two resolutions – 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) – all armed groups should be disarmed. According to Hizballah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah’s remarks of August 14, he is not willing to discuss disarmament of his organization at this time. I doubt that Nasrallah has any intention of ever disbanding Hizballah’s militia, unless, of course, Hizballah becomes the government of Lebanon.
The problems that existed at the start of the conflict still exist today. The two soldiers captured by Hizballah on July 12 are to be released unconditionally, but no time frame is specified in the resolution, and they are still in Hizballah custody. The Shaba’ Farms are still occupied by Israel, although I believe this is merely a contrived issue to justify Hizballah maintaining its militia.
The key to resolution of the continuing crisis is the disarming of Hizballah. I am not confident that the Lebanese Army or an expanded UNIFIL have the stomach for the task. I fear we will be having this exact conversation months or years from now.