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Deployment of multi-national force in Lebanon

The key to maintaining the fragile ceasefire in Lebanon is deploying the multi-national force to displace Hezbollah terrorists in Southern Lebanon.  While deployment remains the likely scenario, it is as yet an uncertain outcome.  Just last week, French President Jacques Chirac, whose country will lead the force, called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s call for a 15,000-strong force “excessive.” 

“I don't know who mentioned this figure but it doesn't really make sense. So what is the right number, 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000, I don't know,” Chirac said in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  France pledged 2,000 troops but has hedged somewhat on that number.

In addition to the difficulty of coming up with a sufficient number of troops for the multi-national force, the troops making up the force thus far have been almost entirely European.  With the experience of casualties from such efforts in Rwanda, Kosovo, and elsewhere many Europeans are having second thoughts or at least delaying any troop deployment.  This led Israel to encourage Muslim nations to send troops to help keep the peace.

But Israel also made it abundantly clear that three Muslim countries that offered troops would not be welcome participants.  Israel flatly rejected any participation by Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia because the three countries refuse to recognize Israel.  Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, speaking officially for Israel said, “The idea that you could have forces on our border from countries that we could not talk to, that we couldn't coordinate with, would cause problems.”  Regev noted that the OIC conference just concluded in Malaysia called for Israel to be “wiped off the map….We didn't hear any word on that from the hosts, Malaysia,” he said. “How can they be a peacekeeper if they do not disavow those comments?”

Israel also singled out Bangladesh.  It formally announced its opposition to countries that have no relations with the Jewish state the day after Bangladesh announced its offer to send troops.  Sources also tell us that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni relayed very specific concerns that public pronouncements by those three countries make it impossible to expect that they could possibly form part of an impartial source.  Bangladesh Foreign Minister Morshed Khan’s characterization of Israel’s actions as “state terrorism” almost in an of itself disqualifies that country from participating in a peace keeping force.

One unnamed source told me, “It’s laughable to think that a country which honored Hezbollah by naming a bridge after it would even think of defending Israelis from attacks by the terrorist group they evidently so greatly honor.”

Regarding Indonesia, it was also noted the an official government spokesman attributed the war to Israeli aggression.  This was in contrast to a number of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia that cited Hezbollah as the cause of the war.  The official Indonesian news agency also quoted the nation’s defense minister as saying Jakarta would object if its forces in UNIFIL were mandated to disarm Hezbollah.

Malaysia has tried to dismiss the objections by alleging that Israel has no say in the matter, and while Israel agrees that it does not have “veto power” in the matter, there is no way the cease fire will hold if only one side finds the force acceptable.  That is why the U.N. appealed to European countries to contribute troops to balance the expanded force so that both Israel and Lebanon will view it as legitimate.

If there is to be peace for the Lebanese, there are a number of candidates in the Muslim world that have not discredited their fitness for the job.  Even among Arab nations, there are three who have full diplomatic relations with Israel:  Egypt, Jordan, and Mauritania.  A number of North African and Gulf States do not have full diplomatic relations but have trade offices, active commerce, and other relations with the Jewish State.  Several non-

Arab Muslim states have relations with Israel, including most Muslim nations in Africa and the Muslim nations formerly part of the Soviet Union.  In calling for Muslim participants in the multi-national force, Regev specifically mentioned Turkey, which is now considering sending troops.

One has to wonder why Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are so anxious to be more “Arab” than the Egyptians and Jordanians who have full relations with Israel; than Saudi Arabia and almost every other state that condemned Hezbollah for its “adventurism” that led to Lebanon’s destruction.  One has to wonder why they would hold fast to a position that places them in the company of terror-supporting states, Iran and Syria.  Even the Palestinians have more and better relations with the Israelis than do these three states.  These actions have not gone without notice in Washington and other capitals, as well.  It was also noted that Bangladesh and Malaysia were the only two non-Arab Muslim countries other than Iran that did not at least meet publicly with Israel after its 2005 Gaza withdrawal, helping to marginalize.  Perhaps most ironic is the fact that—and on this we must take the three nations on their word—by holding to this supposedly resolute pro-Arab position, they have disqualified themselves from playing any kind of role in aiding their brethren or of helping to bring peace to the people of Lebanon.

Morshed Khan’s “state terrorism” comment at a time when most Arabs were blaming Hezbollah damaged Bangladesh’s attempts in Washington to portray itself as a moderate Muslim nation.  One person in Washington told me, “Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury is running around Washington trying to tell us Bangladesh is an ally in the War on Terror, and then his boss comes out solidly in support of a terrorist group.”

Perhaps it is time that the three nations re-assess their antiquated and counterproductive party.  The current policy of “nyah-nyah” makes it impossible for them to actually do anything for the fellow Muslims in the Middle East other than shake their flaccid fists, and it hurts their standing with other nations that could provide them with material benefits for their people.

Posted on 29 Aug 2006 by mah123

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