Italy May Take Control Over Lebanon Force
It appears that Italy may be preparing to step up to the plate that France abandoned and take control of the U.N. Peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon.
Responding to entreaties from the leaders of Israel and Lebanon, Italy is prepared to step forward to lead the expanded United Nations peacekeeping force that has been proposed for war-torn southern Lebanon, the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told reporters today.
taly would take the place of France, which so far has sent only 200 additional troops to help with peacekeeping, far short of the 2,500 to 4,000 it was expected to offer. Italy has promised 3,000 troops, if other European nations also commit forces and if clear rules of engagement can be laid down. But whether those conditions would be met remains in question.
Mr. Prodi said outside his home today that he had spoken to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan about Italy’s offer to lead the peacekeeping force, and that his government would make a final decision about the country’s role by the end of the week, Reuters reported.
My guess is that if announcements have come this far, then Italy is likely to commit itself to heading the peacekeeping force. How soon such a force will deploy is anybody’s guess right now. That said, I hope that the force is deployed soon, because I think that a U.N. peacekeeping force with an actual mandate to disarm Hezbollah is a brilliant plan. Seriously. Given the greater involvement of Europe in Middle East politics, as well as the dependence of the Middle East on both Europe and the United States for oil revenues, my guess is that Hezbollah’s backers are going to be doing an awful lot of encouragement behind the scenes for Hezbollah to give in to the U.N. force. Of course, they have to “save face”, so expect the rhetoric to heat up, but little or no activity behind it.