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International Peacekeepers and the Troubles Ahead - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I still cannot tell what the future holds for the international peacekeeping troops that will be stationed at the Lebanese border with Israel. Will they be robust forces or a lame duck that might be easily captured by anyone who chooses to clash with it?

Israel wants the troops to guard the borders, not just observe them, while Hezbollah wants these troops to be an observing entity without preventing it from crossing the borders whenever it pleases. Furthermore, there are other parties that would love to utilize these troops for their own purposes. So how can this international peacekeeping force deal with the current status quo for months or even years to come?

This question is related to what is understood by the concept of utilizing international peacekeeping forces, which has become a flexible definition that changes depending on the circumstances of which every party is answering the question.

During the conflict in Bosnia, the Serbian government in Belgrade was against the deployment of international forces and only wanted Russian troops that shared a similar antagonistic political stance against Muslims in Yugoslavia. In the end, multinational forces were dispatched from all over the world including Jordan.

In Sudan during the crisis in Darfur, President Omar Al Bashir constantly threatened any UN-sponsored peacekeeping forces sent to impose peace in the area. Hezbollah in the past has threatened not only the multinational forces but Syria as well.

Today, in an effort to appease both Hezbollah and Syria, these multinational forces are known as UNIFIL. In essence, UNIFIL is an international body with limited functions, which was operating before the recent war. Its members paid the ultimate price when they were deliberately targeted by Israel, however, its role has now expanded, it has doubled in number and is better armed. It is now based in the heart of the battlefield led by the French.

Because some major issues in Lebanon are still lingering, these international peacekeeping forces may become hostage to these unresolved issues in the future, whether it is the current conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, or a dispute between various Lebanese political factions or even the resumption of the investigation into the Hariri murder.

Unless the United Nations takes into consideration possible events, the international force could transform into a game in the hands of warring factions, and will be used to exert pressure on different approaches. Eventually, rather than becoming an effective peace force, it will become a means to pressure countries that have contributed troops just as the case has been in Iraq.

An international force is worthless unless it is a striking military force, or a force that is agreed upon by all warring parties. It is likely that their efforts will end just as they began, with halfhearted enthusiasm from participating countries that will gradually withdraw when the first shot comes their way.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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