…this time? The signs do appear to being pointing to a possible employment of European forces in Lebanon, not least with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and others expressing a preference for “EU countries” or NATO – which is mostly the same thing, especially militarily – to supply troops to any peacekeeping/peace enforcement mission there.
The reason why particularly EU forces might be wanted is that the experience with UNIFIL, the existing UN force there, is not great. As what could be termed a “classic” UN force – blue helmets, white AFVs, no Chapter VII authority, and often drawn from neutral and third world armies – it never had a chance of keeping the PLO or Hezbollah out, and neither did it have a chance of standing up to the Israelis. For their part, the Israelis would obviously like any international force sent to the Litani to be effective. And if it is not effective, it won’t protect the Lebanese from the Israelis either!
Unfortunately, effective international forces for this job are in short supply. The US is out of the question, even if it could spare the troops. British armed forces are frantically overstretched. It seems unlikely to say the least that India would get involved, Pakistan would not be welcome, neither would Turkey for different reasons. Vladimir Putin has said that Russia would support a peace force, but its deployable forces are small, and a dose of the Grozny approach to peacekeeping would do everyone a power of bad. That doesn’t really leave anyone else.
Update below the fold.
If the British army is wildly overcommitted, who will come to the party? The answer is NATO’s Response Force 7, which could sail either under the NATO banner or that of the EU. NRF-7 includes naval and air assets likely to include one carrier and its task group, 40 or so assorted aircraft, and an army brigade. The current force lead is the Franco-German Eurocorps, which by happy accident has just finished a major exercise with the rest of NRF-7 on the Cape Verde islands.
Details can be found here (pdf). There’s one serious problem, though. Take a look at the Land Component order of battle. As well as a multinational HQ with a Spanish general overseeing the French brigade commander, we have the French 110th Infantry Regiment, the French 3Ã©me Hussards tank regiment, the 3rd Belgian Parachute Battalion, the 1st Battalion, 6th Saboya Infantry from Spain, a mixed logistics battalion, a Latvian bomb disposal company…and the German 292nd JÃ¤gerbataillon (Light Infantry Battalion), 295th Panzerartillerie (self-propelled artillery battalion), 550th Panzerpionierekompanie (Armoured Engineer Company) and a German military police company.
Is it possible to send German soldiers anywhere near Israel? We may be about to find out. Update: Whether or not it’s possible to send German soldiers there, it looks like it possible to send German secret agents there. According to the Lebanon Daily Star, the Lebanese foreign minister has just been speaking to Peter Witteg, the zustÃ¤ndige leiter at the German foreign ministry, about Germany acting as honest broker to set up a prisoner exchange. Apparently Hezbollah, acting through Nabih Berri as an intermediary, has permitted the Lebanese government to act as an intermediary with Germany acting as an intermediary with Israel in order to gain the mutual release of prisoners. That’s a lot of intermediaries, but it is true that the German secret service has been responsible for setting up past Hezbollah/Israeli exchanges.