From its early days the UN has been concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Since 1948 there have been five wars directly connected with this conflict, resulting in five UN peacekeeping operations. However, war in the region has not been confined to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The outbreak of hostilities between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988, and Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, led to further peacekeeping operations in this region.

United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon

UNOGIL – 28 June 1958 — 18 December 1958
The Irish Defence Forces first contribution to UN peacekeeping began with a call from the Secretary General for an Irish contingent to serve with UNOGIL. Internal divisions between the different cultural groups in Lebanon and pressures from outside powers had led to serious instability and the need for impartial observers. The Muslim opposition had taken up arms against President Camille Chamoun, a Maronite Christian who had announced his intention to alter the constitution in order to retain the Presidency.

The rebels were supported by the United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria) under the leadership of Egypt’s President Nasser. The Lebanese government complained to the United Nations of the infiltration of arms and ammunition across the Syrian border. In response the UN instituted the UNOGIL mission comprising of unarmed military observers.

In the six months that Irish personnel served with this mission they were based along the Syrian border, but also patrolled areas such as Baalbek, Tyre and Sidon. Their duties consisted of monitoring border crossing points and visiting local villages to display an international presence and gain the confidence of the population. The force consisted of 600 officers from 21 countries, the Irish contingent, at 50, being the fourth largest.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the Medal UNOGIL Ribbon
Duration 28 June 1958 — 18 December 1958
Operation type UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer)
Commitment 50 cumulative missions

Second United Nations Emergency Force

UNEF II – 30 October 1973 — 6 September 1974
On October 6th 1973 the Yom Kippur War broke out when Israeli forces were attacked on the Golan Heights by the Syrians (with Iraqi, Jordanian, Saudi and Moroccan contingents) and along the Suez Canal by the Egyptians.

After almost three weeks of heavy fighting a cease-fire was agreed on October 22nd – although General Sharon’s Israeli forces continued with an offensive until October 24th.

The following day the UN Security Council adopted a resolution authorising an emergency peacekeeping force – UNEF II.

The quickest way to get a UN force into the region was to transfer existing contingents from UNFICYP. The Irish Government acceded to a request to supply troops and 25 Infantry Group was pulled out of Cyprus, before it had barely settled in, and flown to Cairo.

The Irish contingent was augmented by 130 extra troops from Ireland, and took up duties in the Sinai Desert.  After six months, the enlarged 25 Infantry Group was replaced by 26 Infantry Group, who were only settling in when serious developments at home caused the Irish Government to withdraw all but a handful of the unit in May 1974.

Irish commitment to the mission ended completely in September of that year.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the Medal UNEF - Medal
Duration 30 October 1973 — 6 September 1974
Operation type UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Troops)
Commitment 573 cumulative missions

United Nations in Tehran

UNIT – 24 June 1984 — 31 July 1988
Located in Baghdad and Teheran, these UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer) inspection teams were voluntarily staffed from UNTSO . Irish commitment was mainly to UNIT – T based in the Iranian capital. Irish involvement, after 9 cumulative missions, ended in July 1988, shortly after Iran had accepted UNSCR 598 which called for a ceasefire in their war with Iraq.

United Nations Work and Relief Agency

UNRWA – 1 February 1988 — 30 June 1992
The Relief Works Agency is the largest single employer of personnel in the United Nations. The Agency, established to work with Palestinian refugees, has over 19,000 people throughout the Middle East. The largest concentration of staff is in Jordan, followed by the West Bank. In Lebanon, approximately 3,500 people work with Palestinian refugees. The main functions of UNRWA are education, health, relief and social work. Two Irish officers served on secondment with UNRWA in Beirut.

United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group

UNIIMOG – 14 August 1988 — 10 March 1991

A week before the formal ceasefire which ended the almost decade-long Iran-Iraq War, UNIIMOG was activated. The mission, consisting of 350 observers, deployed along the 800km ceasefire line. In October a 37-strong Irish MP detachment joined the mission in addition to 15 officers serving as observers.

UNIIMOG had to establish agreed ceasefire lines; monitor compliance; and supervise, verify and confirm the withdrawal of all forces to the recognised international boundary.

By the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 1st 1990, most of UNIIMOG’s mandate had been achieved. Continuing improvement in relations between Iran and Iraq, including the establishment of a ‘zone of confidence’ along the border, allied with the deteriorating situation in Kuwait led to the ending of the UNIIMOG mission.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the Medal UNIIMOG Ribbon
Duration 14 August 1988 — 10 March 1991
Operation type UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer)
Commitment 177 cumulative missions

United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission

UNIKOM – 18 April 1991 to March 2002
April 3rd April 1991 saw the adoption of UNSCR 687 (1991), which set out specific terms for a formal cease-fire between Iraq and Kuwait and its UN-supported Coalition allies and established a demilitarised zone (DMZ) along the border. A later Resolution (689) established UNIKOM – which began deployment on April 18th.

At the outset, in addition to 300 military observers UNIKOM had almost 700 infantry, drawn from UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force Lebanon) (Nepalese, Fijians and Ghanaians) and UNFICYP (United Nations Force in Cyprus) (Austrians and Danes).

The duties of UNIKOM were to monitor the Khar Abdullah waterway and the DMZ (approximately 200km long and 15km wide); to deter border violations; and to observe any potentially hostile action mounted from the territory of one state to the other.

The mission was carried out by establishing observation posts, conducting patrols and carrying out investigations throughout the DMZ. On March 17th 2003, prior to the military campaign against Iraq by the US-led coalition, the Secretary General suspended UNIKOM’s operations and withdrew all but a small HQ, which remained in Kuwait City.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the Medal UNIKOM - Ribbon
Duration 18 April 1991 to March 2002
Operation type UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer)
Commitment 69 cumulative missions

United Nations Special Commission

UNSCOM – UN Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission – September 21 1996 — March 2003
UNSCOM was first established by UNSCR 687 in 1991 following the first Gulf War. Its mandate was to supervise the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles with a range over 150km, and related production facilities and equipment. It also provided for the establishment of a system of ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq’s compliance with the ban on these weapons.

UNSCOM’s monitors faced years of difficult obstacles in carrying out their mission due to continuous harassment, duplicity, and lack of co-operation from the Iraqi authorities.

In June 1993 Iraq’s obstruction of the activities of UNSCOM led to air raids by the US and its Coalition allies.

In December 1998, UNSCOM staff was withdrawn from Iraq and in December 1999 the mission was replaced by UNMOVIC.

Operation Details
Ribbon for the Medal UNSCOM Ribbon
Duration September 21 1996 — March 2003
Operation type UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer)
Commitment 5 cumulative missions