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Austrians to Pull Soldiers out of Israel-Syria Buffer Zone


Yesterday, the Syrian civil war reached the Israeli-Syrian buffer zone in the Golan Heights, with rebels briefly capturing a UN-controlled border crossing before being driven away by Syrian army tanks. All is quiet again today, but the Israeli military remains on high alert.

That little bit of excitement was apparently far too much for Austria’s blue helmets. Yesterday, the Austrian government announced that it would be pulling all of its soldiers from the UN Peacekeeping Mission that monitors the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel. The 378 Austrian soldiers form the largest contingent within UN force. The FT reports:

“For military reasons, the Austrian army’s participation in the UNDOF mission can no longer be maintained,” said Werner Faymann, chancellor, in a joint statement with his foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, adding that there had been a “sustained deterioration” of the security situation in the region in recent weeks.

“An uncontrolled and immediate threat to Austrian soldiers has reached an unacceptable level. This morning’s developments show that we cannot wait any longer.”

We can’t help but wonder: if soldiers don’t belong in areas where there is “sustained deterioration of the security situation”, what are they for?

The UN peacekeeping force has been in the Golan since 1974. This is arguably the first time their presence has actually been needed. That’s the trouble with the blue helmets: they’re never around when you need them most.

[UN soldiers photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • wigwag

    Which is why the idea that if the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority ever signed a deal, the international community could police the deal by creating a buffer zone guarded by international troops is a joke.

    UNIFIL in Lebanon was supposed to keep Hezbollah from rearming; how did that work out? After Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza, EU forces were supposed to police Gaza’s border with Egypt to prevent arms smuggling. How long did that last?

    Come to think of it, in June 1967 UN troops headed for the hills at the first sign of trouble just as Austrian troops are now. After the Suez crisis of 1956 a buffer zone was created between Israeli forces and Egyptian forces. When Nasser got belligerent in 1967 and ordered the UN forces to withdraw, did they object? Nope; they meekly obeyed the Egyptian dictator.

    As good as the U.S. army and marines are, it took them two years to secure the short road between the airport in Baghdad and the Green Zone in the center of the city.
    The idea that Israel could ever rely on the United Nations, NATO, the EU or even the United States to police its border with a new Palestinian State is too absurd to even contemplate.
    Someone should explain this history to the dimwit who currently serves as Secretary of State.

    • bpuharic

      The question is, of course, why WOULD the US be interested in policing Israeli borders, or why we let ourselves be dragged into an interminable and insoluble situation.

  • Corlyss

    “We can’t help but wonder: if soldiers don’t belong in areas where there is “sustained deterioration of the security situation”, what are they for?”
    Stunning lack of analysis on the writer’s part. The UN rules of engagement are even more ridiculous than those the US military operates under in Iraq & Afpakia. Right now, a brave warrior is deciding to plead guilty to slaughter of innocents that should be considered collateral damage in a highly violent front. Murder charges and other scapegoating for such accidents is obscene when politicos make the decision to go into a warzone and then tell the warriors effectively to keep their guns unloaded (Reagan), never shoot civilians under any circumstances in a conflict where the bad guys all dress like civilians (with the result that according to their press every death is a civilian), but protect the weak from the predations of the strong. That’s a recipe concocted by lawyers, Europeans, and the craven, with the connivance of the enemy. There’s no such thing as success in such an environment.

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