UN Resolution Leaves Hizballah Intact

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The U.N. resolution designed to end the fighting in the Middle East does not mandate a stabilization force going into southern Lebanon either to disarm Hizballah, or to help the Lebanese government to disarm it. The omission raises concerns that the deal may fail to achieve a long-term peace.

Friday's unanimous Security Council vote on resolution 1701 paved the way for a cease-fire, which officially came into effect early Monday.

It calls for the Israeli military to pull back over the international border as a beefed-up, 15,000-strong UNIFIL force deploys in the area south of the Litani River, together with 15,000 Lebanese Army troops.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the painstakingly negotiated measure "a good first step," stressing there was a lot more to do.

The Israeli cabinet endorsed the resolution, which government ministers characterized as a victory for Israel. The Lebanese cabinet -- including the two Hizballah ministers -- also approved the move on Saturday, but on Sunday canceled a crucial meeting meant to discuss deployment of the army to the south.

The resolution authorizes the international force to help the Lebanese Army establish a specific area between the border and the Litani River free of any weapons or armed personnel other than those belonging to the army or UNIFIL.

But it does not mandate UNIFIL to help the army to disarm or dismantle Hizballah.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whose government was earlier approached by the U.S. about contributing troops to an international force, made no attempt to hide his misgiving about the resolution.

"Unless there is a clear determination and a clear authority to disarm Hizballah, this is not going to work," he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

"I have real and serious reservations about the effectiveness and the lasting character of this resolution.

"I hope I'm wrong, but if you actually look at the language of it, it's quite loose in relation to the disarming of Hizballah and that is the long-term problem."

Howard wanted the resolution to authorize the international stabilization force to disarm Hizballah, or to work with the Lebanese government and army to disarm Hizballah.

"Unless Hizballah is disarmed, there is not going to be a settlement, a lasting settlement."

He confirmed that his concerns about the inadequacies in the resolution would be one element in the government's decision as to whether to contribute troops or not.

Dodging disarmament

A widely-acknowledged weakness in an earlier U.N. resolution - 1559 of 2004 - was the fact it did not expressly call for Hizballah to give up its weapons, but rather for "all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" to disarm.

The loophole was exploited by Hizballah, which said it was a national resistance movement, not a militia, and so was exempt. The Lebanese Army and some members of the Lebanese government, including the foreign minister, agreed.

Resolution 1701, again, does not call for Hizballah -- by name -- to be disarmed.

It does, however, call for implementation of earlier resolutions "that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that ... there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state" -- without saying exactly how and when this will happen.

In a point-by-point analysis of the resolution published on a University of Pittsburgh school of law website, Northwestern University law professor Anthony D'Amato mulled the possibility that Hizballah and the Lebanese government had done a secret deal in recent days.

"What group in its right mind would consent to a resolution that calls for its disarmament to be likely followed by arrests and prosecutions for war crimes?" he asked.

"The only reasonably conceivable reason Hizballah has agreed to this resolution is that it has been assured, by secret agreement with the government of Lebanon, that its members will not be disarmed, arrested, or prosecuted.

"My best guess is that the agreement calls for members of Hizballah to be smoothly integrated into the armed forces of the Lebanese government."

This would enable Hizballah to dodge disarmament and simply change their uniforms, D'Amato said.

Hizballah is already a junior partner in the Lebanese government. Its integration into an army that already has a majority of Shi'ites and whose commanding officer is sympathetic to Hizballah could further blur the distinction.

This could have ramifications in other aspects of the U.N. resolution, particularly a provision that seeks to impose an embargo on weapons entering the country.

The embargo is subject to Lebanese government authorization, and D'Amato pointed out that if the government wanted to import missiles or other weapons from Iran or Syria, UNIFIL was not empowered under the resolution to do anything about it.

The notion of amalgamating Hizballah and the national army has been raised before, not least by the U.N. itself.

"Our goal is to integrate Hizballah into the Lebanese Army," Terje-Roed Larsen, Annan's special envoy for Lebanon, said in Beirut last March.

In a weekend editorial, the Beirut Daily Star hailed the opportunity provided by the resolution for Lebanon to strengthen its army, adding that "the best strategy would be one where Hizballah's arms and expertise were institutionalized within the Lebanese Army."

Writing shortly before the resolution was passed, Henri Barkey, a Mideast specialist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania argued, that if the terrorist group was not disarmed as a result of this crisis, the Hizballah model -- "a well-supplied and trained militia" -- could well be emulated elsewhere.

"The Hizballah model can easily be exported to other failed or semi-failed states, ranging from Somalia to Sri Lanka, Iraq and Colombia and perhaps even to Pakistan one day," he said.

"All you need is an external patron willing to invest resources just as Iran has in this case, and a supportive population base."

Barkey said Hamas and the Medhi Army -- Moqtada al-Sadr's Shi'ite militia in Iraq -- had already modeled itself along Hizballah lines.

The U.S. could not afford to see a proliferation of Hizballah-like organizations deciding the fate of nations, he said. Its disarmament was critical for the international community.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow