Text size

The effort to cobble together a multinational force for Lebanon is beginning to show signs of fatigue, if not outright collapse. True, France is offering 200 soldiers, Finland or Denmark will also send several hundred, and perhaps Turkey will manage to overcome domestic opposition and dispatch a large force, but a substantive international deployment of about 15,000 soldiers is still only on paper. Every candidate for contributing forces has excellent excuses: Turkey has a domestic political problem; Pakistan does not wish to send troops that will confront Hezbollah; and Malaysia is willing to help, but does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and is therefore not acceptable to Jerusalem.

However, the real problem lies with the tasks this multinational force will be assigned. After all, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, it is not supposed to disarm Hezbollah or carry out searches for weapons in homes and depots. The force is meant to assist the Lebanese army in carrying out its tasks, and when the government of Lebanon declares that it will not disarm Hezbollah, one cannot expect that a multinational force will volunteer to undertake this role.

However, the deployment of the force reflects the determination of the international community, the Muslim states, the developing world and the countries of the West to implement the UN resolution. Even if the tasks that the multinational force will undertake will not meet Israel's requirements, or address all the articles of Resolution 1701, it will force both Lebanon and Israel to recognize the fact the UN decisions have practical significance. Lebanon needs this force because it is meant to assist the government and will not only act to deter Hezbollah, because it has undertaken to help UNIFIL, but it will also be a deterrent against Syrian and Iranian involvement in the country. From Israel's point of view such a significant force could show perhaps the sole diplomatic gain in this war, and may even allow the continuation of certain Israeli-instigated operations inside Lebanese territory.

The speed by which this force is put together is important beyond the Israeli-Lebanese conflict. At the end of the month the Security Council is expected to decide on the matter of the Iranian nuclear program. It is still not clear what the nature of the decision will be and whether sanctions will be imposed on Tehran. However, the gravity with which the council will deal with Iran will also affect the seriousness of the attitude of member states toward Resolution 1701.

During the past year Iran managed its nuclear diplomacy successfully because it identified and took advantages of the differences among Security Council members. Resolution 1701 and the way it was passed signaled to Iran that the field of action is changing and that it may be best to pay attention to changing attitudes. However, when countries that initiated Resolution 1701 are beginning to distance themselves from it, it is doubtful whether anyone in Tehran attributes great importance to the Security Council.