When and in what manner might the world’s major powers intervene to prevent further military escalation in the Middle East?
Those assembled at the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg this weekend have produced carefully worded but opaque statements. In one statement, the G8 declares, “These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos.” The NYT notes an apparent allusion in the phrase “extremist elements” to Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian backers, but is this formulation not also an attempt to stake out the “neutral” ground?
From what we’re seeing on the American Sunday morning talk shows, it seems unlikely that the US will take unilateral diplomatic action to pressure Israel into a cease-fire. Despite the clamoring from some parts of the American body politic, the Bush administration is not planning to send Condoleezza Rice to the region in the immediate future. I get the sense that the attitude in Washington is one of, “Let’s return to diplomacy after the military conflict clarifies and redefines the balance of power in the region.”
Will it be the UN that ultimately takes decisive action? On the diplomatic front, this seems unlikely. Yesterday, the US – unsurprisingly – blocked another Security Council resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire. But what about a deployment of a UN force to southern Lebanon? It is quite clear that for all the calls from people like Jacques Chirac for the Lebanese army to enforce Security Council Resolution 1559 – to deploy in the country’s south and reign in Hezbollah’s irregular forces there – this is in fact beyond the realm of the possible. There are already 2,000 UN troops in the region, and the G8 has called for the Security Council to consider the deployment of a new force. It seems to me that at the end of the day if any further restrictions can be placed on Hezbollah’s ability to amass weapons in southern Lebanon and conduct operations from its confines, this is a step forward. A UN force would mean more of the world’s eyes fixed on the Shiite militia’s activities. After all, it was just this international attention that at least in part drove the Syrian army out of Lebanon last year. Could it end up forcing the disarmament of Hezbollah?