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Is the death of an Irish soldier the death knell of UNIFIL?

UNIFIL, Irish

Opinion

Is the death of an Irish soldier the death knell of UNIFIL?

It’s been a couple of weeks since a UN vehicle was shot up and UNIFIL Irish soldier, Private Sean Rooney, was killed in Lebanon, leaving more questions today than answers.

This is not surprising in the failed state of Lebanon riddled with ethnic hatreds, ruined by the violent interferences by Syria, Arafat’s PLO terrorists, and currently the Iranian Shiite proxy Hezbollah, an internationally designated terror organization that has a chokehold over the Lebanese government, whenever they have a government.

Currently, Lebanon is frozen. Not by the cold of winter, but by the impotence of their political system. One faultline has been an unending civil war between ethnic and religious divides.  Currently, according to CIA statistics, Lebanon is 33% Christian (divided among 13 sects, the largest being the Maronites), 32% Sunni and 31% Shia Muslims, plus 4.5% Druze. Hezbollah is a Shia minority, but they have the Iranian muscle to enable them, literally, to call the shots in Lebanon.

Hezbollah controls, by strength of arms over a weak Lebanese army, much of southern Lebanon ever since the South Lebanon Army was defeated and driven out of Lebanon. Hezbollah took over the villages and homes of the fleeing SLA, a Lebanese Christian militia fighting against outsiders such as Assad’s Syrian army and Arafat’s PLO.

In the year 2000, this Christian militia was defeated by Hezbollah forces and its soldiers either surrendered or fled south with their families and given refuge in Israel.

Since then, Hezbollah has controlled the south of Lebanon. It has strengthened its stranglehold and turned it into an Iranian military front against Israel.

Israel estimates that Iran has delivered at least 150,000 rockets and precise missiles that are stored in homes, schools, and mosques in south Lebanese villages.

UNIFIL should have inspected, located and itemized the stored weapons for a full and detailed United Nations Security Council report but they haven’t because Hezbollah does not give them access to the villages and locations they control.

Another job that UNIFIL should have undertaken, but didn’t, was the inspection and reporting of Hezbollah underground attack tunnels from villages running under the border with Israel enabling their terrorists to emerge in surprise lethal attacks against Israel’s northern towns and kibbutzim. These were only discovered by Israeli sensor devises as the terror tunnels reached its border.

So what peacekeeping are UNIFIL soldiers doing in Lebanon?

The news that two UNIFIL vehicles were attacked when they inadvertently took a wrong turn is not surprising, but is this true?

Initially, the report was that the UNIFIL soldiers were attacked at 9 pm in a dark December night by “an armed mob.”

Hardly likely. Nobody wanders around Lebanese villages on a cold dark night armed with rifles unless they are either a Lebanese army unit – but they surrendered this turf to Hezbollah a long time ago – or Hezbollah themselves.

UNIFIL coordinates its movements with the Lebanese army, but this didn’t prevent an armed group from attacking the white, clearly marked, UN peacekeeping (?) vehicles.

It is known that Hezbollah and AMAL, their Shia political support party, have strong influence and presence in the south of Lebanon.

A pro-Hezbollah reporter on Al Mayadeen TV claimed that there had been increased tensions between “locals” and UN forces. For “locals” read Hezbollah.

The fact that Lebanese security forces and intelligence did not immediately rush to the scene of the crime, and that UNIFIL itself held back from going in fast to carry out a thorough investigation is indicative of it being a Hezbollah stronghold.

It is, therefore, more reasonable to assume that an ambush was waiting for the vehicles rather than the excuse that the vehicles took a wrong turn and were immediately surrounded by an armed mob who immediately opened fire on two white marked UN vehicles.

Why would a crowd of civilians, who happened to be walking around with guns on a dark night, be so incensed by familiar UNIFIL vehicles? It simply doesn’t make sense.

The vehicles were armor-plated with bullet proof windows. It was reported that the gunmen got into one through the back of the vehicle shooting Rooney from the rear. One other soldier was found injured outside the vehicle.

Don’t believe this was anything but a deadly Hezbollah attack.

Don’t believe there will be truth and justice for Private Sean Rooney any day soon. It took 15 years to convict two Hezbollah murderers for the assassination of Lebanon Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

And don’t believe that UNIFIL can bring peace to Lebanon. It remains a lost cause. Earlier this year, Arab Gulf states demanded the Lebanese government hand over all Hezbollah arms. This is, after all, a desired Lebanese priority one would have thought, for a country truly bent on democratizing itself. But this is not the case in lost Lebanon.

In 2004, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 called for the disarmament of all non-state militia in Lebanon, of which Hezbollah is clearly the main one. However, early in 2022, the Lebanese Foreign Minister rejected the demands of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states saying that Lebanon will not hand over Hezbollah weapons even if Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf State nation are fearful of the Iranian grip in the region and Lebanon becoming the Shiite pivot in the region with Hezbollah chief, Nasrallah, verbally threatening Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah was founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982. It has become the most powerful non-state militia in the world. Its fighters have backed pro-Iranian allies in the region, including Syria, and its influence is widespread in Central and South Africa.

To call UNIFIL a powerful peace-keeping force in Lebanon is a sad reflection of the delusion we are living under.

The tragic death of Sean Rooney highlights the fact that UNIFIL is barely tolerated and only operates at the will, or not, of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, and not of the Lebanese government which, at the time of writing this report, has no president, a caretaker cabinet with limited powers, and a deeply fragmented parliament.

Barry Shaw, a Special Contributor to Blitz is International Public Diplomacy Director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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