On Friday, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned the UN peacekeeping commander in Lebanon for turning a blind eye to the “massive flow of illegal weapons” to Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon and called for the force to do more to stop these activities, Haaretz reported Sunday.
The U.S. has increased pressure on the UN ahead of the peacekeeping mission’s renewal, scheduled for next week, to stop the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization which Israel has long complained is operating with impunity.
However, the UN peacekeeping commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, has rejected U.S. and Israeli criticism. He told The Associated Press this week that his force has no evidence for illegal activity in the region, and that “if there was a large cache of weapons, we would know about it.”
But according to Haley, there is no shortage of evidence, including Hezbollah’s own boasts about its illegal weapons stockpile. Beary, to her, displayed “an embarrassing lack of understanding of what’s going on.” She added: “He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind to what Hezbollah is doing,” adding that his view of the situation “shows that we need to have changes” in the operation.
Haley previously stated that the U.S. wants to see “significant improvements” to the peacekeeping force, although the mandate of the operation would remain intact. “It’s time the Security Council puts teeth in the UNIFIL operation,” she said. “We don’t need to be giving terrorists a pass.”
Israel’s deputy chief of staff, IDF Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, also disputed the effectiveness of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Lebanon while touring the border with the force’s commander and Haley in June.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Israel on Sunday to discuss with officials Iran’s weapons smuggling to Hezbollah. Other items on the agenda include Iran’s presence in Syria, Israel’s fight against Hamas, and its policies in the West Bank.
UNIFIL was established in 1978 to supervise the border between Israel and Lebanon. Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, UNIFIL has also been charged with maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. The terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the war, called for UNIFIL “to ensure that no armed groups such as Hizbollah would move into” southern Lebanon.