UN Renews Lebanon Peacekeeping Mission With Modest Troop Cuts

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The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to extend a long-running peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for a year while making modest adjustments to allowable troop levels in order to ensure U.S. support.

The resolution maintains a mission most council members argue is crucial to sustaining a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon. In a concession to U.S. demands, the maximum number of troops allowed will be reduced to 13,000 from 15,000. The move is largely symbolic given that 10,500 troops are currently deployed.

The French-drafted proposal was approved with 15 votes in favor, according to diplomats at the UN on Friday.

The resolution calls on the Lebanese government to facilitate “prompt and full access” for UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, but it doesn’t solve the U.S. and Israeli complaint that the UN force proves helpless when Hezbollah blocks access. Although Hezbollah plays a role in Lebanon’s increasingly dysfunctional government, the U.S. brands it a terrorist group.

National security hawks in the U.S. had urged the Trump administration to use its veto threat in the Security Council to force the mission, known as UNIFIL, to be overhauled or cut back further.

“$1 BILLION US taxpayer dollars to UNIFIL over the last seven years,” Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has helped guide the Trump administration’s Iran sanctions policies, tweeted. “Negative return on investment.”

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon was established in 1978 to patrol Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. After a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, its mandate was expanded with a more ambitious goal of making the area weapons-free. But Israel frequently calls on UNIFIL to take a stronger approach in enforcing the cease-fire and cracking down on Hezbollah’s military deployment in Southern Lebanon.

In another significant change, the resolution now calls on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to come up with a “detailed plan” for improving the mission and to present it to the Security Council within 60 days. It also calls on him to report to the Security Council on the restrictions to UNIFIL’s freedom of movement.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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