18 August 2006

Cheer up, boys, the cavalry is coming!


I waited for a day or two to see how the cards are falling with the "beefed up" UNIFIL force that is supposed to begin its mighty reign in south Lebanon. Of course, we were promised to see the iron fist of French, Italian and German manufacture (with a bit of a glove, of course, but it could not be helped - after all it is an European production).

And of course, as suspected, the results are, how to say it gently: miserable. A dire warning from the horse mouth:

UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown pressed ambassadors from dozens of countries to tell the world body "in the next few days at most" how many soldiers they would contribute and when, after France sent planners into a tailspin by offering only a token number of soldiers.

This is really a striking development. The same France that outmaneuvered both US and Israel, castrating the UNSC resolution to satisfy its Arab League friends and promising to become a leader and a main fighting force in that iron fist, suddenly experiences a case of cold feet? And here is more:

Earlier, France refused to send a NATO force in which the United States has a commanding post, and this is the reason, according to sources in Washington, that it rushed to present its candidacy to head a multinational force.

So this was the reason for the abundant promises...

Now the French are hesitating whether to send forces to Lebanon. French President Jacques Chirac announced that he would only send 400 soldiers to southern Lebanon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not send any troops.

So Germany is also out. And Italy does it in its own inimitable (but endearing nevertheless) way:

Italy has said it could quickly send as many as 3,000 soldiers - up from its current contribution of about 50 - but Premier Romano Prodi's office said Thursday that he was pushing for explicit ground rules. In a telephone conversation with Annan late Wednesday, Prodi called for "a clear mandate, without any ambiguity and with very precise rules of engagement, for the soldiers who will be deployed," his office said.

Rules of engagement, ambiguity - this from the people who created the timeless "If you gonna shoot - shoot, don't talk". Ah well, it was at another place and another time, besides it was about other people...

But wait, the comedy does not stop here. Here is what AFP has to say re French designs:

France, which has said it is ready to head the expanded force, has demanded that it be given the necessary resources to carry out the mission.

Are there any limits to chutzpa? I can already imagine the leading dress designers of Paris rushing forward with new ambitious offers for the French CIC of UNIFIL and his staff. And the perfume industry shall have a field day, too. To try and cover up that stink...

To conclude - the rest of that dire warning we started with:

"We must convert promises into firm commitments, and commitments into rapid deployments on the ground. Every moment we delay is a moment of risk that the fighting could re-erupt," Malloch Brown told the closed-door meeting, according to a text of his remarks.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com