Lebanon Table of Contents
At the behest of the Lebanese government, the Multinational Force (MNF) was deployed again in Beirut, but with over twice the manpower of the first peacekeeping force. It was designated MNF II and given the mandate to serve as an "interpositional force," separating the IDF from the Lebanese population. Additionally, MNF II was assigned the task of assisting the Lebanese Army in restoring the authority of the central government over Beirut. The United States dispatched a contingent of 1,400 men, France 1,500, and Italy 1,400. A relatively small British contingent of about 100 men was added in January 1983, at which time the Italian contingent was increased to 2,200 men. Each contingent retained its own command structure, and no central command structure was created. The French contingent was assigned responsibility for the port area and West Beirut. The Italian contingent occupied the area between West Beirut and Beirut International Airport, which encompassed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The 32d United States Marines Amphibious Unit returned to Beirut on September 29, where it took up positions in the vicinity of Beirut International Airport. The Marines' positions were adjacent to the IDF front lines.
The Marines' stated mission was to establish an environment that permit would the Lebanese Army to carry out its responsibilities in the Beirut area. Tactically, the Marines were charged with occupying and securing positions along a line from the airport east to the Presidential Palace at Babda. The intent was to separate the IDF from the population of Beirut.
The key to the initial success of MNF II was its neutrality. The Lebanese government had assured Ambassador Habib in writing that it had obtained commitments from various factions to refrain from hostilities against the Marines. The United States reputation among the Lebanese was enhanced when a Marine officer was obliged to draw his pistol to halt an Israeli advance, an event sensationalized in the news media. And, in the same month, Marines conducted emergency relief operations in the mountains after a midwinter blizzard.
At this juncture, the prevalent mood in Lebanon was one of cautious optimism and hope. The Lebanese Army was pressed into service to clear away the rubble of years of warfare. The government approved a US$600 million reconstruction plan. On October 1, President Jumayyil declared Beirut reunited, as the army demolished barricades along the Green Line that had been standing since 1975. Hundreds of criminals and gang leaders were rounded up and arrested. In the first months of 1983, approximately 5,000 government troops were deployed throughout Greater Beirut. Most important, the government began to build a strong national army (see The Lebanese Armed Forces in the 1980s , this ch.).
Lebanese optimism was bolstered by changing Israeli politics and policies. Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon, the architect of Israel's war in Lebanon, had resigned in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila investigation, although he remained in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio. He was replaced by the former ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens. Although Arens was considered a hawk in the Israeli political spectrum, he was not committed to Sharon's ambitious goals and wanted the IDF to withdraw promptly from Lebanon, if only to avoid antagonizing the United States, with which he had cultivated a close relation. Accordingly, Israel withdrew its forces to the outskirts of the capital.
But the IDF had no clear tactical mission in Lebanon. Its continued presence was intended as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a Syrian withdrawal. While awaiting the political agreement, the IDF was forced to fight a different kind of war, which Israeli newspapers compared with the Vietnam War. The IDF had been turned into a static and defensive garrison force like the Syrians before them, caught in the cross fire between warring factions. When Phalangist forces tried to exploit the fluid situation by attacking the Druze militia in the Shuf Mountains in late 1983, the IDF had to intervene and separate the forces. In southern Lebanon, the IDF had to protect the many Palestinian refugees who had streamed back to the camps against attacks by Israel's proxy force, the SLA. In one of the bigger ironies of the war, the IDF recruited and armed Palestinian home guards to prevent a repetition of the massacres in Beirut.
Data as of December 1987
Lebanon Table of Contents