Mideast Conflict

President Bush called Monday for quick deployment of an international force with "robust rules of engagement" to help uphold the fragile cease-fire in Lebanon.

"The international community must now designate the leadership of this new international force, give it robust rules of engagement and deploy it as quickly as possible to secure the peace," Mr. Bush said.

But, let's step back and examine what this means.

What is a cease-fire?

A cease-fire is an order to stop firing, a truce. In the Mideast conflict, this order came from the United Nations and took effect Aug. 14. The cease-fire, or truce, halted fighting in a month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.


Who is Hezbollah?

The Lebanese Shiite Muslim guerrilla group, Hezbollah, or Party of God, formed in 1982 with Iranian backing during Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The group, secretive in early years, was linked to the bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in 1983, the bombings of two U.S. Embassy buildings and the kidnappings of more than 50 foreigners.

Hezbollah is under the leadership of Secretary-General Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a middle-ranking Shiite Muslim cleric who took over after 1992 Israeli assassination of Sheik Abbas Musawi. The group draws support from Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiite Muslims - the country's biggest sect and about one-third of the population – and has 2 members in Lebanon's 128-seat parliament.


What role does the U.N. play in a cease-fire?
To resolve the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Security Council Resolution 1701 on Aug. 11, 2006. You can read the resolution here. This cease-fire resolution calls for an end to the fighting, as well as for a massive increase in U.N. troops in southern Lebanon.

The U.N. resolution authorized up to 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers to help an equal number of Lebanese troops extend their authority into south Lebanon as Israel withdraws its soldiers. The U.N. wants 3,500 troops on the ground by next Monday, but so far, no European countries have stepped up with a large contribution of forces.

France, which commands the existing U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL, had been expected to make a significant new contribution that would form the backbone of the expanded force. But France's president, Jacques Chirac, disappointed the U.N. and other countries last week by merely doubling France's contingent of 200 troops.

Read other United Nations Security Council Resolutions here.


Will U.S. troops help keep the peace in Lebanon?
No, the U.S. does not plan to contribute troops, President Bush has said. However, it will provide logistical support, command and control assistance and intelligence. Mr. Bush said it was "the most effective contribution we can make at this time."

Click here for an interactive of the events, key players and history of the region.





Learn More About The Middle East Below:

Columbia University's Middle East Studies Internet Resources

U.N. News Center

U.N. Truce Supervisions Organization



  • Melissa McNamara

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