Deal or No Deal?

The US and France have agreed on a UN ceasefire resolution, an agreement hailed as a victory for the US and Israel. None of the combatants has yet accepted the deal, and it's pretty clear that real issues are concentrated in an envisaged second resolution. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, writing in The New York Times notes:
The draft resolution called for a truce, asked the current United Nations peacekeeping force to monitor the border area, and laid out a plan for a permanent cease-fire and political settlement. The text called for immediate cessation of all attacks by Hezbollah, and of offensive military operations by Israel.

But it did not include a prisoner exchange or require Israel to immediately withdraw from Lebanon...

Without the second resolution, I don't expect much to happen:
The accord envisaged a second resolution, to create a new international force to patrol a zone to between the Blue Line at the Lebanon-Israel border and the Litani River to keep it free of all military personnel and weapons, except those of the Lebanese Army and United Nations-mandated forces.

That resolution would also set established borders for Lebanon, including in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, lay out the procedure for disarming Hezbollah, order an international embargo on arms shipments into Lebanon, and empower the Lebanese military to extend its authority throughout Lebanon, particularly in areas in the south controlled by Hezbollah.

The international force is a big if, and is unlikely unless Hizbullah is on board. If it is created, it could be that France wants to be part of it. This would have plusses and minuses for several actors. The Israelis might actually get some security, if the political deal can be made and holds. Lebanon might also wind up more secure. Israel is in no position to challenge France with impunity. France is one of only about a half-dozen countries with clear military superiority to Israel, and it is geographically closer than any of the others.

The big winner could well be France, which was once the colonial power in Lebanon and Syria and aspires to be a player once again. Despite the conventional wisdom, the biggest loser could be the US. With France in place, it could easily become the main player on the Israel - Lebanon - Syria - Jordan stage. Meanwhile, the US is intractably bogged down in Iraq, and seems likely to be largely driven out in the next few years.


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