July 27, 2021 — New York
This piece originally appeared in The Times of Israel.
Next month, the UN Security Council will convene, as it does every year, to renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Unless the Council takes the necessary measures to ensure that its resolutions regarding Lebanon are upheld, UNIFIL’s mandate will remain unfulfilled.
On August 11, 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1701, which called for a “full cessation of hostilities” along the Israel-Lebanon border. The Council clearly acknowledged the hostilities were triggered by Hezbollah’s unprovoked attack on Israel. During the month-long crisis, hundreds of people died, thousands were injured, and hundreds of thousands were displaced, on both sides of the border.
While Israel has complied with resolution 1701, Hezbollah and its state sponsor Iran have persistently undermined it. The resolution called for full implementation of resolution 1559, adopted two years earlier, which called for disbanding and disarming all militias in Lebanon. But Hezbollah has not been disarmed, and in fact has significantly increased its military capabilities.
Resolution 1701 called for re-establishing the Lebanese government’s effective authority along the border with Israel and in all of Lebanon, but that’s impossible if Hezbollah remains an armed militia. It also called for an embargo on the sale or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon, except as authorized by its government. However, Iran, which played a key role in the creation of Hezbollah in 1983, and has invested heavily in its proxy, continues to provide Hezbollah with ever more deadly weapons.
Hezbollah is the quintessential terrorist organization. It perpetrated the 1983 bombing against the US embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people, and, in the same year, carried out the gruesome bombing of the US and French barracks of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, killing 241 American and 58 French soldiers.
Globally, Hezbollah was involved in the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the AMIA building in 1994, which together killed 114 civilians and injured scores more. In 2012, its operatives perpetrated a terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver.
Since 2011, Hezbollah has supported the Assad regime’s murderous campaign against the Syrian people and has exacerbated sectarian and ethnic tensions in Lebanon. The devastation caused by the Syrian conflict fueled Europe’s unprecedented refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016.
Hezbollah is dedicated to the annihilation of Israel. “Israel has no legitimacy to exist at all and must be destroyed,” Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared in a May 2020 speech.
During the 2006 conflict with Israel, it had some 13,000 short- and medium-range rockets, which it used to attack civilian targets across northern Israel. Today, Hezbollah is believed to have more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, including long-range systems as well as ones with improved accuracy, allowing it to strike throughout Israel and with increased precision. Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened to use this arsenal against Israel.
A growing list of countries, including the United States, has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Notably, since 2016, this list also includes the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In his 2020 report on the implementation of resolution 1701, UN Secretary-General António Guterres observed: “Hezbollah continued to acknowledge publicly that it maintains military capabilities. The maintenance of armed groups outside the control of the State by Hezbollah and other groups in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and 1559 (2004) continues to restrict the State’s ability to exercise full sovereignty and authority over its territory.”
Guterres further observed that “The freedom of movement of UNIFIL in its entire area of operations, including along the full length of the Blue Line, remains critical.” However, Hezbollah, under the pretext of “private property” (frequently a code word for locations where Hezbollah deploys its militants and weapons), has persistently denied UNIFIL such freedom of movement.
Guterres also criticized Israeli overflights of Lebanese airspace, but they are necessary due to Hezbollah’s strategic threat, the Lebanese government’s failure to rein in the terrorist organization, and the Iranian regime’s continuing efforts to provide it with more sophisticated weapons.
The August 2020 explosion in Beirut, which killed more than 200 people, and the global pandemic, have deepened Lebanon’s political and economic crises. The former government has resigned and efforts to establish a new government have failed. Any serious attempt to address Lebanon’s problems requires the establishment of a stable government that maintains effective authority over the country. A situation whereby an armed militia wields powers usually reserved for a sovereign government undermines the state’s capacity to serve its people.
Hezbollah is a threat to peace and security in the region and beyond. It is the main impediment to the fulfillment of UNIFIL’s mandate. The Security Council must use the powers conferred upon it by the UN Charter, including the power to impose sanctions on rogue organizations and their state sponsors, to uphold its resolutions regarding Lebanon.
Aaron Jacob is the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Director of Diplomatic Affairs.