Thank you, Mr. President. The United States is very pleased to support this renewal of the UNIFIL mandate. I want to thank all Council members, but especially France for its leadership on this vitally important peacekeeping mission. France, of course, has a historic relationship with Lebanon. It has many troops in UNIFIL, and we appreciate their sacrifices and the sacrifices made by all troop-contributing countries. We appreciate France’s willingness to work with us to make significant improvements in this renewal.
Conditions in south Lebanon are very dangerous today. The clouds of war are gathering. UNIFIL exists to help prevent war from happening again in south Lebanon. It is supposed to do that, in part, by helping the Lebanese government to ensure that there are no weapons outside of state control in UNIFIL’s area of operations. We have to be honest. For too long, UNIFIL’s leadership has failed to make sure this goal is realized. In particular, UNIFIL Commander General Beary’s lack of understanding of the threat Hizballah poses to the region is baffling.
At the direction of its patron Iran, the terrorist organization Hizballah is stockpiling an offensive arsenal in southern Lebanon. They have thousands of missiles and thousands of trained fighters – all beyond the control of the Lebanese government. It is apparent to everyone who cares to see it.
Some have observed that there have been no major hostilities in the area since 2006. They say that is proof that the mission is successful. It is proof of no such thing. Hizballah is not seeking to prevent war; it is preparing for war. Hizballah has used the relative quiet since 2006 to re-arm itself in violation of Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559. This is no secret. Hizballah admits it and brags about it. They parade themselves in front of TV cameras.
UNIFIL has a difficult mandate, and it operates in a difficult part of the world. UNIFIL’s troops, including from Member States of this Council, have served with dignity and courage. That is why the United States has strongly supported this mission and will continue to do so. This resolution gives UNIFIL robust authority to help Lebanon keep the south safe. What we sought in this renewal is to make sure UNIFIL is doing its job to the fullest extent possible. And I’m very pleased with what we accomplished here today.
The status quo for UNIFIL was not acceptable, and we did not accept it. The renewal we have adopted today does several important things. It expressly highlights that UNIFIL has the mandate to take all necessary action to stop its area of operations from being used for hostile activities. It calls on UNIFIL to establish a more visible presence and step up its patrols and inspections to disrupt Hizballah’s illicit activities. For the first time since 2006, the resolution emphasizes that UNIFIL can assist the Lebanese government in securing its borders to stop the flow of illegal weapons into the country. And, very critically, it tells UNIFIL to give us clear reports on what it is prevented from seeing. For too long, when UNIFIL has hit a Hizballah road block, it has turned away. We don’t learn what’s behind those roadblocks. It does not take active imagination to know that what Hizballah wants to keep secret are its illegal weapons. UNIFIL now needs to tell us the details of where, when, and why it got stopped. These are all big steps forward.
This resolution demands that UNIFIL step up its efforts at a moment when Hizballah is stepping up theirs. Hizballah’s past actions tell us what it will do in the future. Hizballah has terrorized the people of Lebanon. Hizballah has terrorized the people of Syria, standing on the front lines of the Assad regime’s criminal activity. Hizballah has engaged in terrorist actions far beyond the Middle East. Any nation that has experienced the pain of terrorist attacks in their own country ought to consider that they could be next.
The purpose of UNIFIL is not to go to war with Hizballah. The purpose of UNIFIL is to keep its area free of terrorist personnel and weapons and to report on any denial of its ability to do so. If UNIFIL does that, it will contribute greatly to the peace and stability of the area. Our action today will help ensure that this peacekeeping mission has the power and the will to do its job.
For the United States, this is a time for strength, resolve, and accountability at the United Nations. Our actions today go to the heart of this new approach. The United States will not sit by and watch Hizballah strengthen itself for the next war. We will not be passive as Iran makes a mockery of this Council’s word. Today we took a very good step forward. Together, our next job is to make sure UNIFIL does what we have instructed it to do here today.