The news is full of reports that Israeli air strikes have targeted Iranian-supplied missiles in Syria, which Israeli officials believe were intended for Hezbollah — Iran’s satellite terrorist organization in Lebanon. Midway through a New York Times story on this development comes a reminder that :
Hezbollah is now believed to have more missiles and fighters than it had before its 2006 battle with Israel, when Hezbollah missiles forced a third of Israel’s population into shelters and hit as far south as Haifa.
“More missiles” may be putting it modestly. In 2011, Israeli authorities said that Hezbollah had rearmed to the extent of amassing more than three times the weapons it had prior to the 2006 war. Supplementing their allegations with detailed maps, Israeli officials charged that Hezbollah had created a network across southern Lebanon of almost 1,000 rocket and missile facilities, including 550 bunkers and 100 weapons storage units.
All of which raises the question of what’s going on with the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon). UNIFIL was beefed up, at significant cost, after the 2006 war, with the professed aim of ensuring that Hezbollah would not rearm. As spelled out in 2006 in UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was supposed to secure peace, UNIFIL’s mandate included helping Lebanon’s armed forces ensure that southern Lebanon, bordering on Israel, would be — to quote from the UNIFIL web site — “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in the area.”
Obviously — see the information above — that mandate for ensuring an area free of Hezbollah munitions has not worked out. So what is UNIFIL doing?
UNIFIL remains in southern Lebanon, on an annual budget now totaling almost $550 million (more than 27% of that funded by U.S. taxpayers), with more than 11,000 peacekeeping troops. Apart from fretting that Hezbollah is taking over, what are they doing?
Well, they are embodying diversity, with troops from 38 countries. They have put out a 2013 calendar featuring “Women of UNIFIL.” And according to a FAQ page on UNIFIL’s web site, they have been providing quite an array of services to the local community: “UNIFIL contingents provide free medical, dental, veterinary and such other assistance to the local population.” Beyond that. they have been providing training programs for the locals, “in such fields as computers, languages, bread making, knitting, yoga, taekwondo and so on.”
So, while UNIFIL has proved unable to stop Hezbollah from amplifying its previous military facilities into a warren of hundreds of bunkers stuffed with thousand of rockets and missiles, UNIFIL has been toiling away to provide everything from computer instruction to free medical care to yoga, knitting, and taekwondo lessons to the local population that hosts these Hezbollah weapons facilities. Should we really call this peacekeeping? Sounds more like free services for Hezbollah.