January 6, 2014 | Policy Brief

Failure of U.N. Peacekeeping in Lebanon

January 6, 2014 | Policy Brief

Failure of U.N. Peacekeeping in Lebanon

The Iranian-spawned terrorist group Hezbollah is smuggling advanced guided-missile systems into Lebanon, according to a report last week in The Wall Street Journal. This development highlights the failure of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon, and raises urgent questions about whether the U.N. should continue to be entrusted with this job.

Known as UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), this U.N. peacekeeping mission is hardly interim. It has been in place for more than 35 years. Set up in 1978, UNIFIL expanded greatly after the brief 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel that began with Hezbollah attacking an Israeli patrol, killing three Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others (their bodies were ultimately ransomed by Israel after the U.N. failed to recover them).

Under terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, prompted by the 2006 war, UNIFIL was to be part of the U.N. effort to ensure that Hezbollah did not rearm, and that southern Lebanon, bordering on Israel, would be, “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons,” apart from those of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and UNIFIL itself.

Since 2006, billions of dollars have been spent on UNIFIL, with more than one-quarter of the funding coming from U.S. taxpayers. Currently, UNIFIL has an annual budget of more than $492 million, and employs well over 10,000 troops and almost 1,000 civilian staff.

UNIFIL contingents provide services to the local community, such as computer training, and free dental, medical and veterinary care. UNIFIL also provides training in bread making, yoga, knitting and taekwondo, and last year tried to enhance its image with a “Women of UNIFIL” calendar.

But in its prime mission of keeping weapons out of the hands of Hezbollah, UNIFIL has failed. Hezbollah has been engaged for years in a massive arms buildup, which by now includes far more weapons, with far greater range and sophistication, than it had in 2006. The Israeli government in 2009 released information — complete with maps — that Hezbollah had tripled the size of its arsenal, building almost 1,000 military facilities, including more than 550 weapons bunkers.

And Hezbollah has only strengthened since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. In 2010, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.”

Now comes the news of Hezbollah smuggling piece-by-piece into Lebanon dozens of Russian-made SS-N-26 Yakhont advanced anti-ship missiles. The U.N. has yet to explain how UNIFIL plans to mitigate the mounting dangers in Lebanon

Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Hezbollah International Organizations Iran Lebanon Syria