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June 13, 2020

To prevent war in Lebanon, Germany must extend the UNIFIL mandate

As turmoil continues to rattle Lebanon and innocent lives there are under constant threat, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon remains one of the few entities guaranteeing some stability and hope for the region, and preventing utter chaos. 

As a member of the United Nations and NATO, and a contributor to UNFIL, the German parliament has the opportunity and responsibility to extend the mandate of this crucial organisation. 

My fellow Green Party members and I have been pushing hard for the mandate renewal to be approved, citing two main reasons for our demand. 

Firstly, the UNIFIL mission has effectively ended a war in Lebanon, and continues to do so. A recent example of this would be the escalation of tension between the border towns of Adaisseh in southern Lebanon and Metula in northern Israel, which was ultimately prevented by UNIFIL before fighting broke out. I think this really needs to be underlined in the deliberations about the mandate extensions. 

Moreover, UNFIL constitutes a UN mandate; it is led and operated by the United Nations. Anyone who reduces this mission exclusively to the German contribution has simply not understood how UN security measures and peacekeeping missions work. This entire endeavor’s promise and functionality rely on the collaborations between nation states, with each contributing their share.

As I write this article, a multi-faceted crisis of massive proportions is raging in Lebanon. This crisis has numerous causes and several manifestations. The local currency is falling sharply, and we’re witnessing a soar in food prices there. Flour, sugar, and butter are no longer affordable. Massive protests are once again being staged by people who also took to the streets prior to the pandemic. As the virus spread the protests were temporarily suspended, but have now been rekindled with the slogan: “Starvation is worse than Corona.” 

When you stop to consider the actual potential of Lebanon, it is almost unthinkable; particularly for people who have known the country for years - witnessing the kind of poverty that is rampant there right now is utterly devastating. The middle class is completely disintegrating.

And there is a core reason for all of this. If you retrace the strands that led to this crisis, you arrive again and again at the same conclusion, which is that the underlying corruption of Lebanon’s elites is the root cause of its plight. Consequently, the Lebanese public increasingly loses confidence and trust in the country’s institutions. 

If there is any institution that is state-run and is not held hostage by Hezbollah - it is the army. Just think about how proud the protesters on the streets of Beirut were of their military, when the army suddenly – for the first time in many years – intervened as Hezbollah and Amal-militias tried to beat up the demonstrators. After years of exhibiting reluctance to do so, the army unexpectedly protected the protesters against the Hezbollah thugs. 

If you reflect on this for a moment, you see how relevant this army is, and you also understand why it is imperative to continue empowering it. It is yet another reason why we wish to approve this mandate, namely, to ensure that precisely this army is trained on location and continues to receive help and support by the German armed forces. 

As a prosperous and powerful member of the international community and the United Nations, Germany’s responsibility to help achieve peace and stability across the Middle East extends beyond its commitment to UNIFIL. Germany’s reaction to the totalitarianism, anguish, and warfare raging in countries like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq cannot be a retreat to separatism and nationalism, but rather a proactive attempt at restraining brutality and averting further humanitarian crises. 

Approving the UNIFIL mandate gives Germany an opportunity to take swift and immediate action toward guaranteeing stability in the Middle East. Throughout my career as a politician and public servant I participated in countless Bundeswehr debates concerning the German military, but rarely have I been able to so comfortably and eagerly call on my faction to support a mandate renewal as in this case. Lebanon needs our help. And it needs it now. 

Omid Nouripour is German politician of the Alliance '90/The Greens. Nouripour currently serves as a member of the Bundestag, representing the state of Hesse. He is his party's spokesman on foreign affairs, and is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and a deputy member of the Defence Committee.

Image: Michael Lloyd