A team of UN experts examining border procedures said Lebanon is unable to control its border with Syria, let alone stop arms smuggling. In a 45-page report released today, the five independent international security experts blamed this sad state of affairs on -- surprise-- lack of coordination between security agencies, a poorly trained Lebanese army and absence of cooperation with the Syrian regime.
The U.N. assessment team recommended that Lebanon set up "a multi-agency mobile force focusing on arms smuggling with the purpose of creating seizure results within a short time span through its intelligence and rapid interception capabilities."
It also lamented the fact that "there is no (cross border) cooperation" at the operation level between Lebanese and Syrian authorities and urged both sides to remedy the situation.
It expressed concern about the presence of "several heavily armed Palestinian military strongholds covering both sides" of the border, saying they "constitute pockets of territories where the Lebanese security forces are denied the possibility to exercise their mandate."
The report also criticized the "lack of operational cooperation and coordination" among Lebanon's four different security agencies: the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security and the General Customs.
It said that during the nearly 30 years of Syrian domination which ended in 2005 "no concept of border security at the border was ever implemented." (Naharnet)
The UN team recommended the deployment "of international border security experts" to back up the multi-agency mobile force.
On a worrying note, the UN experts said that during their three-week mission, which coincided, mind you, with widespread reports of arms smuggling and military buildup by pro-Syrian factions (scroll down), "not a single on-border or near-border seizure of smuggled arms has been documented to the team".
The report added that "poor layout of border control points and lack of fixed procedures resulted in 'non-controllable passengers', vehicles and cargo flow within the facilities."
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr maintained in the past that the Lebanese army is fully capable of monitoring the border. He also denies arms were being smuggled through the border, despite a UN report warning of rampant influx of weapons from Syria, which prompted the Security Council to authorize the mission to examine border procedures on the Lebanese side (the team did not go to Syria). Last week, the defense minister declared an end to military operations in the Nahr El Bared camp, where Assad-backed terrorists have been fighting the Lebanese army for weeks. As many of my readers know, the battle has not ended. Murr told al-Arabiya today that that the military now controls 80 percent of Nahr el-Bared camp, and that Fatah al-Islam leader, Shaker Abssi was now taking "residents as human shields".
Murr, who has just finished meeting with FBI director Robert Mueller, has a lot of questions to answer. Of course, someone has to ask those questions first.