MARGARET WARNER: Philip Gordon, how big a commitment is this on the part of the Europeans?
PHILIP GORDON, Brookings Institution: It’s a pretty important commitment, because you remember that the cease-fire in southern Lebanon was contingent on an international force going in, as was the deployment of the Lebanese army to the south.
And for the past week, we’ve all been sitting around waiting to see if this key piece of the whole picture was going to happen. There was some doubts for a while, but now the fact that they were able to pledge 7,000 troops, which makes it easier for other countries, Muslim countries, to pledge the rest, it looks very positive.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Philip Gordon, explain Jacques Chirac and what happened with France, though. Last week, he was almost ridiculed for proposing just to double their current UNIFIL contribution from 200 to 400, after saying that they wanted to leave the force, they were behind the U.N. resolution. Yesterday, he said 2,000. What happened?
PHILIP GORDON: There was a big disconnect between what people were expecting from France and thought they understood from France and what the reality was. Everyone assumed that France would be delighted to lead this force and send lots of troops.
They have a historic role in Lebanon. People assume that Jacques Chirac wants to show France’s world role, the importance of the European Union. He has been tough on Iran and Syria, which assassinated his friend, the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, all sorts of reasons that people were just assuming. France’s role at the U.N., France was key in negotiating the cease-fire and the U.N. resolution.
So we were all sitting around, figuring and assuming that France would lead this force. Nobody really checked with the French military and the French defense ministry which was going to have to send these troops.
And when they did, it also had to do with the particular mandate. If you remember, the first U.N. Security Council resolution was under Chapter Seven of the U.N. charter which means force could be used…
[Stabilization is] difficult to do in Iraq and especially Syria because no one wants the U.S. to put lots of forces on the ground to be doing that and locals will struggle to do it well.
[Trump has] given Iran the moral high ground and that is an exceptionally difficult thing to do given the history and reality of Iran's misdeeds at home and in the region. It's just malpractice on the part of an American president.
The way the Trump administration is moving forward [with its Iran policy] is just so hostile to all aspects of Iran that it’s unlikely to produce any traction with the Iranian people or to encourage divisions within the system.