- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

As Israel steps up its campaign to cripple Hezbollah, it finds itself facing two major threats: the terrorist organization and its state sponsors in Tehran and Damascus, which are feverishly working to resupply it with weapons, and the danger that the United Nations will try to impose an immediate cease-fire that would preserve Hezbollah, which is capable of attacking Israel from Lebanon. Current negotiations at the United Nations and elsewhere are deliberating over the composition of an international “stabilization force” that would maintain security in southern Lebanon and train a Lebanese army capable of policing the southern part of the country.

In these negotiations, the United States right now is the major obstacle in the way of efforts led by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, together with France and Russia, to push through the Security Council a resolution calling for a cease-fire that would do nothing to deal with the root cause of the current violence: Hezbollah’s use of Lebanese territory to attack Israel. Mr. Annan, the Russians and the French want an immediate cease-fire — even if it enables Hezbollah to survive and re-emerge as a more dangerous threat.

Washington wants to ensure that the stabilization force will not be a replica of the U.N. Interim Force presently in Lebanon, which is largely powerless to do anything to stop Hezbollah attacks. Washington is pressing for creation of a force that would have the military capability to stop Hezbollah from being rearmed by Tehran and Damascus (a major assumption being that Israel’s current military campaign will be successful in destroying most of Hezbollah’s long-range weaponry). Washington and Paris are locked in difficult negotiations over whether a stabilization force can act “aggressively,” a Western diplomat told us, to prevent Hezbollah from staging new attacks. France and Russia, in particular, prefer a passive approach to policing Lebanon.

Israel, which ended its 18-year occupation of Lebanon in 2000, has no desire to keep its forces in Lebanon — hence its support of an international effort to police southern Lebanon and keep Hezbollah’s terrorist army out. But before such a force can be deployed, the Security Council needs to answer basic questions, including: How many troops would be required? What countries would be willing to contribute them? Will the coalition soldiers be capable of militarily thwarting Hezbollah? What will members of the force do if they are attacked by Hezbollah (the very terrorist group that drove American and French armed forces out of Lebanon almost 23 years ago)? How will Iran and Syria be prevented from resupplying Hezbollah and triggering a new wave of violence? How long will it take for the stabilization force to train a Lebanese army capable of standing up to Hezbollah?

The answers to such questions will determine whether Lebanon becomes a peaceful nation that is not a threat to its neighbors, or its people continue to be held hostage to the whims of Islamosfascists in Tehran and Damascus.

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