05 August 2006

The French connection

Trying to understand the disagreements between US and France on the forthcoming UNSC Lebanon resolution is not that simple. Besides that special diplomatic lingo that the sides (especially the politically astute French folks) are generating, there is a scarcity of details on the ongoing negotiations between France and US. I have chosen three sources: Guardian, AFP and Ynet in order to understand the outstanding issues.

According to a brief reference by AFP, the differences are so subtle it is only a question of wording:

UN chief Kofi Annan spoke by telephone with both US President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac as the two governments remained at odds over how to phrase a first resolution on the conflict.

Is it so? The Guardian more or less agrees, reducing the whole business to a definition of the point where the future international peace force will get to the peacekeeping:

The split on the UN security council between France and the United States hinges on exactly what would happen in the immediate aftermath of a halt to the fighting. France wants the violence to stop before the details of any peacekeeping force are discussed, not least because such a force would probably be French-led, and Paris does not want its soldiers caught in crossfire between Israel and Hizbullah.

The US has little international support for its contrasting view, that a cessation of hostilities must be immediately followed by steps towards a multinational force, except Israel.

So, the issue here is the timing of the peacekeeping force getting onto the ground. Nothing more. Oh, and of course, since this is what US (and Israel) want, it must look bad, according to Guardian. But this is to be expected, coming where it comes from .

But even this problem seems to be in no way unsolvable. So what is it that keeps the UNSC from issuing that first resolution? Ynet is more forthcoming. It appears that, in addition to the issue of timing of the international force getting in, there are three major issues so far unresolved.

Issue 1

The United States also wants monitoring of Lebanon's border with Syria to make sure Hizbullah is not supplied with new arms, diplomats close to the talks said.

Must be clear to anyone (with the possible exception of France, it seems) that if the replacement rockets and other arms keep flowing down the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah food chain, there will never be any disarming of that murderous gang.

Issue 2

France's draft resolution calls for existing UN peacekeepers and Lebanon's army to monitor the truce, while the United States favors the Israeli army staying in southern Lebanon until the arrival of an international force, which France may lead.

In other words, France wants IDF to be out of south Lebanon even before the international force starts organizing, leaving the area in the hands of totally impotent (and unwilling to be anything but impotent) UNIFIL observers and non-existing Lebanon's army. Which effectively means getting Hezbollah back a few hours after IDF is out. Who is kidding whom?

In fact, it appears that the French stance on this issue echoes that of Hezbollah:

The militia's chief spokesman said on Thursday Hizbullah would not approve a cessation of hostilities until Israeli troops are out of Lebanon.

Strange, eh?

Issue 3

Also unclear is when and by whom Hizbullah would be disarmed.

Of course, vagueness is the most potent ammunition of a diplomat. However, without a clearly defined path to Hezbollah's disarmament it takes hardly a genius to understand that France is paving a way for a truce that will in effect be just a postponement of a new war, to exceed anything we have seen up till now.

One could wonder at the seemingly strange behavior of the French diplomats. There is not need, though, when AFP courteously provides a first clue to this behavior:

France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, commands the existing UN peacekeeping force deployed in the border area and is widely expected to lead a beefed up international force being advocated by Israel and its US ally.

Clearly, Frenchies do not give a flying donut about Israeli lives that will continue to be lost if they get their wishes. What they care about is to get the status-quo back. And to come out of the bloodshed smelling like a rose, with some additional brownie points from their Lebanese and other Arab friends.

The only thing they ignore is the transparent nature of their pathetic maneuvering.

And one more quote from AFP:

Israeli troops were engaged in deadly clashes with Hezbollah guerrillas as world powers bickered over the wording of a UN Security Council call for an end to a conflict now in its 25th day.

World powers? Plural? Time for that universal confusion sign.

Somebody should explain to Jacques the basic facts of life...

Cross-posted on Yourish.com