Buildup in Lebanon

Thursday, July 5, 2007

IT HAS been nearly a year since the Hezbollah movement staged an unprovoked raid from southern Lebanon into Israel, killing eight soldiers, abducting two others and triggering a 34-day war in which 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis died. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war, provided for a greatly strengthened international force to keep the peace in southern Lebanon, along with the Lebanese army. It also mandated the disarmament of Hezbollah, a ban on arms shipments to non-government forces in Lebanon and the clear demarcation of the border between Lebanon and Syria.

The deployment of the U.N. force, which now numbers 13,000, has helped to prevent further fighting in the past 11 months. But the failure to implement the rest of Resolution 1701 means that war in the Middle East could erupt any day.

Two U.N. reports issued last week clearly underlined the growing danger. One, by the secretary general, reported evidence of rearmament by Hezbollah as well as by extremist Palestinian factions and of shipments of heavy weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border. It said that the Lebanese government had reported seizing a truckload of weapons belonging to Hezbollah, including Russian Grad rockets, and that the Lebanese army had observed four truck carriers bearing eight missile launchers across the border last month. A second report, by an independent group of experts assigned to inspect the border, found no effective controls to prevent arms smuggling and said that Lebanese forces charged with border security had not seized any contraband arms.

There's not much doubt about who is behind the military buildup, not to mention the growing violence in Lebanon itself. According to the secretary general's report, "it is widely believed in Lebanon, including by the government, that the strengthening of [Palestinian] outposts could not have taken place without the tacit knowledge and support of the Syrian government." It notes Israel's claim that "the transfer of sophisticated weaponry by Syria and Iran across the Lebanese-Syrian border, including long-range rockets (with a range of 250 miles) . . . [and] anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, occurs on a weekly basis." And it says, "Hezbollah armed elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa valley, including command and control centers, rocket launching capabilities and conducting military training exercises."

When Resolution 1701 was adopted, Israel urged the Security Council to deploy international forces or monitors along the Lebanese-Syrian border to prevent such weapons deliveries. Intimidated by threats of attacks on U.N. troops, the council refused. The result is that Syria and Hezbollah once again are positioned to rain missiles on Israeli cities, to wage war on the Lebanese government or to assault the foreign troops deployed in southern Lebanon. The Security Council has been fully informed; will it do anything to prevent another war?

© 2007 The Washington Post Company