Yet again, Iran is instigating violence and instability in the Middle East. Although it has been nine years since the Israel-Hezbollah war, the recent altercations between Israel and Iranian client Hezbollah show tensions can escalate at any time. Hezbollah’s brazen attack on an Israeli military convoy killed two Israeli soldiers and a U.N. peacekeeper. This marks the most serious flare-up since 2006 and could lead to a much broader conflagration.
The U.S. State Department strongly condemned Hezbollah’s action and called it “a blatant violation of the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel and the UN Security Council Resolution 1701.” The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1701 after the 2006 war in Lebanon in order to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah and bring an end to the war. Israel withdrew from Lebanon explicitly because of the guarantees in 1701, which prohibits “sales or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government” and calls for the “establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”
Unfortunately, 1701 has been routinely violated since it passed in 2006, and since that time there have been no penalties against its violators and scant attention to the issue in international fora. It is long past time for the U.N. and Lebanon to enforce this critically important U.N. Security Council Resolution before the violence gets dramatically worse.
Under 1701, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces are mandated to engage Hezbollah fighters in order to ensure that UNIFIL’s area of operations is not used for hostile activities, and to assist the government of Lebanon in affirming that all militias are disarmed. Despite consistent evidence of Hezbollah’s massive violations of the resolution and a lack of cooperation from the Lebanese Armed Forces, the U.N., sadly, has failed to act for over eight years and is failing to meet its obligations pursuant to 1701.
During that eight year period, Hezbollah – a clear, unauthorized, armed militia — has consolidated its hold on southern Lebanon and has amassed an arsenal of rockets and missiles estimated at close to 100,000, all aimed at Israel. According to recent reports, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with new advanced “Fateh” missiles, with a range of 250-350 kilometers and capable of carrying a 500kg warhead.
In addition to its rocket arsenal, Hezbollah has reportedly acquired advanced air and coastal defense systems from or through Syria, and enhanced its anti-armor and anti-tank weaponry. Both the quantity and quality of these missiles in Hezbollah’s arsenal could threaten to overpower Israel’s missile defense system, triggering a quick reaction to nullify the missile threat and causing substantial casualties on both sides.
Unlike Iran and Hezbollah, Israel has fully complied with Resolution 1701. Israel has not only upheld its responsibilities under the resolution by fully withdrawing from Lebanon, but has also acted with great restraint in its response to Hezbollah activities in Lebanon and Syria. Additionally, Israel has worked with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to offer humanitarian support to Lebanon, and it has treated victims from Syria in Israeli hospitals.
After withdrawing from southern Lebanon in 2006, however, Israel today faces a northern border that is far more unstable, volatile, and threatening because the government of Lebanon and the United Nations have failed to live up to their commitments. As a result, Israel’s major population centers are threatened as never before by Hezbollah’s missiles and rockets.
Another war between Israel and Hezbollah would have devastating consequences for all the parties involved. As an organization created to help maintain peace and stability, the United Nations has unfortunately thus far failed to do so in southern Lebanon, despite the clear mandate of resolution 1701. The world has wavered in its commitments as Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 100,000 rockets and missiles, including Iranian-supplied advanced “Fateh” missiles, located south of the Litani River along the border with Israel. Continued UN and international inaction here will engender more violence that will significantly damage Israel, Lebanon, and the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East.
U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) are members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East.
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