The List: Who Will Send Troops to Lebanon?
Nearly everyone agrees that a large, multinational force of some kind is needed to police the Israel-Lebanon border and enforce a cease-fire. But Israel has made it clear that it won’t accept the usual U.N. rent-a-force. With Britain and the United States unwilling to send troops because of their commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, FP takes a look at other nations that could supply the boots on the ground.
Why: The United States and Israel want to drive a wedge between moderate Arab states and Hezbollah and its sponsors. So, expect a big push for Egyptian involvement. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has already told members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that he would welcome Egyptian troops.
Stumbling block: The Egyptian public. President Hosni Mubarak was too afraid of public backlash to host U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for talks in Cairo last week. How comfortable would he be sending a large number of soldiers to protect Israel from attack?
Bottom line: Mubarak would cave to international pressure, but he would also take the opportunity to remind the Americans to be careful what they wish for.
Why: Sending Italian troops to the region would help establish new Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodis reputation on the world stage. Italian participation would also firm U.S-Italy relations, which have been strained by Prodis decision to pull troops out of Iraq. Prodi, the former head of the European Commission, also wants the country to take a leading role in the force before other Europeans can.
Stumbling block: Italys coalition politics. Prodi cobbled together a government after barely squeaking by in Aprils elections, and he has only a slight majority in the Italian Senate. His grand plan for involvement could easily be held hostage by a recalcitrant senator or two.
Bottom line: With nationaland personalprestige on the line, the wily Prodi will likely get his way and deploy Italian soldiers to the region.
Why: Strong ties between the Turkish and Israeli militaries, as well as Turkeys membership in NATO and its large Muslim population, make the country an obvious choice for the force.
Stumbling block: Appearances. Turkey would be loathe to appear as the Wests lackey unless it got significant concessions in return. The countrys foreign minister stressed last week that a force would have to be backed by a U.N. resolution and that a cease-fire would need to already be in place for Turkey to participate.
Bottom line: Turkey may agree to send troops if it believes that, in return, it could obtain some leverage in its tortuous accession talks with the European Union.
Why: The former colonial power in Lebanon already has forces there as part of a U.N. observer mission. France is also the only country that has the trust of both the Israeli and Lebanese governments, and a military with the capacity to do the job right now. Expect the French to take command of any multinational operation.
Stumbling block: The color of the helmets. French President Jacques Chirac has said that NATO is perceived as the armed wing of the West in the Middle East, making its involvement inappropriate. France would prefer to send troops under the banner of the United Nations. Theres also the memory of the 89 French troops lost in Lebanon serving with the 1982-83 multinational force.
Bottom line: Chirac hinted to Le Monde last week that French troops will be deployed, saying, France has always assumed its responsibilities in Lebanon.
Why: Dispatching troops to Lebanon would provide a big boost to Germanys campaign for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Theres also an undercurrent of historical atonement. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier argued recently that Germany is compelled to get involved, remarking that sending troops would be appropriate given the difficult shared history between Germany and Israel.
Stumbling block: Details. Germany is reluctant to dispatch troops unless kidnapped Israeli soldiers are released and Hezbollah accepts the presence of a peacekeeping force. And for Germany, the historical argument is a double-edged sword. The specter of the Holocaust looms heavily, with a recent newspaper editorial arguing that no German soldier should be brought into a situation where he has to aim his weapon at an Israeli.
Bottom line: Expect the Germans to compromise and end up in the rear with the gear.
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