Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 28, 2020
AS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
The United States is committed to an effective and accountable UNIFIL mission and supports the resolution today with that goal in mind. Today’s action is an important step in that direction, and I applaud my French counterparts for working diligently with us toward this outcome. Today we halt a long period of Council complacency on UNIFIL and the growing and destabilizing influence of Iran and its client, the terrorist organization Hizballah.
For decades, Lebanon and its army have been intimidated and overpowered by Hizballah, whose fighters and politicians pledge allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader. The terrorist group is responsible for the death and injuries of far too many Israelis, Syrians, Lebanese, and Iraqis. And its terrorism has stretched from South America to Europe and Africa.
The U.S. has supported UNIFIL since its inception in 1978 because the force has reduced tensions between Israel and Lebanon. However, the Trump Administration is deeply concerned these last years about UNIFIL’s overall inability to contain the Hizballah menace. We are not going to allow this to stand. The Council must join us in confronting this.
Israeli soldiers were fired upon across the Blue line as recently as two days ago. Israeli communities live under constant threat, and Hizballah weapons installations within Lebanese towns subject civilians to danger. Hizballah’s influence over the Beirut Airport and the Port of Beirut is another self-evident concern. Arms continue to flow across the border between Syria and Lebanon in violation of Security Council Resolution 1701.
Today’s resolution takes important steps toward rightsizing and improving the effectiveness of the UNIFIL mission, and explicitly calls for the Government of Lebanon to facilitate UNIFIL’s “prompt and full” access to its mandated territory.
These improvements will spotlight those actors in Southern Lebanon who blatantly obstruct UNIFIL, and who put the UNIFIL peacekeepers, and the people of both Israel and Lebanon in harm’s way.
Through this mandate, we also secured a commitment by the Secretary General to provide a plan for implementing recommendations to fundamentally enhance the mission. The United States also stood firm on the question of UNIFIL’s troop ceiling to ensure that it more appropriately aligns with the reality on the ground.
The reduction of the ceiling from 15,000 troops to 13,000 is an important step toward right-sizing a mission that has for years been over-resourced given the limits on its freedom of movement and access.
While this is tangible progress, the United States believes there is much more to do. Be assured that in the coming weeks and months, the Trump Administration will be closely scrutinizing this mission to ensure these improvements are effectively implemented.
We hope that the UN will seize the tools we have provided in this mandate, and we hope this Council, and the Government of Lebanon, will redouble its efforts to ensure that UNIFIL is fully able to discharge its mandate.
If, however, today’s action does not trigger necessary improvements, including improved access for UNIFIL and steps to diminish the vast and growing Hizballah arsenal of weapons, Council members must be prepared to take further action when the mandate comes up for renewal next year.