January 2006 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon/Israel (UNIFIL)

Expected Council Action
On 31 January, the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) will expire. The Council is expected to receive the report of the Secretary-General around 20 January, discuss the recommendations in consultations and extend the mandate of UNIFIL by six months.

Key Facts
Following the Cairo Agreement signed in 1969 between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Lebanese government, which granted the Palestinian militants the right to operate on Lebanese soil, and after being expelled from Jordan in 1970, the PLO went to Lebanon and established bases in the south from which it conducted operations against Israel.

In retaliation for a PLO attack in March 1978, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and occupied the southern part of the country. A few days later, the Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), urging Israel to cease its military activities and withdraw its forces from Lebanon. It also decided to establish the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), with the mandate of:

Israel withdrew in June 1978. Control of the south was taken over by a militia allied to Israel, the South Lebanese Army (SLA).

In 1982, Israel invaded again, reaching Beirut. From 1982 until 1985, UNIFIL’s main role was to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to the local population.

In 1985, Israel undertook a partial withdrawal, but retained a self-proclaimed “security zone” in South Lebanon, controlled by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the SLA.

The armed group Hezbollah was founded in 1982 and quickly focused on expelling Israeli forces from Lebanon. In South Lebanon, Hezbollah fought a guerrilla war against Israel and the SLA. Despite the impasse, the Council kept renewing UNIFIL’s mandate on a regular basis, accompanied by Presidential Statements calling for the implementation of resolution 425 (1978).

In May 2000, Israel proceeded with the complete withdrawal from South Lebanon, in compliance with resolution 425 (1978). The SLA was dismantled. The UN drew a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line. In the aftermath, UNIFIL’s mandate was renewed in order to verify the Israeli withdrawal and help the Lebanese forces to deploy into the area vacated by Israel. Because of violations of the Blue Line by the IDF, the deployment of UNIFIL and of the Lebanese forces in the south was halted. Hezbollah filled the vacuum, conducting militant activities and providing social services for the population. Today Hezbollah justifies its action against Israel based on the Israeli occupation of the Sheb’a farms, a small piece of land considered part of Syria by the UN but part of Lebanon by Hezbollah.

From June 2000 to January 2001, the troop strength of UNIFIL was increased in order to redeploy over the territory that Israel left. But the Secretary-General noted at the end of 2000 that, out of the three components of UNIFIL’s mandate, one only remained: the restoration of peace and security in the area, given recurrent incidents along the Blue Line. Therefore, the strength of the force was reduced following resolution 1337 (2001), and the mandate modified to one of monitoring.

The Council has continued to extend UNIFIL every six months. The Council requested the Secretary-General in January 2005 to make recommendations on a possible review of the UNIFIL mandate, and he concluded that nothing needed to be changed for the time being.

Key Issues
For the Council, an important issue is for Lebanon to be able to regain full control over all its territory. This was restated in resolution 1559 (2004) which called on all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to be disbanded and disarmed. Terje Roed-Larsen was appointed Special Envoy for Verification of the Implementation of Resolution 1559. This resolution was applied not only to the areas occupied by Syrian troops, but also in the south to replace Hezbollah. It is an issue, therefore, whether the UNIFIL mandate renewal would be the appropriate opportunity to take up the outstanding recommendations in the Roed-Larsen report.

Allegations that Hezbollah hampers the work of UNIFIL had been addressed in the last consultations about UNIFIL in July 2005. It remains to be seen whether this issue will be addressed in the Secretary-General’s report.

A further relevant issue arises from the fact that both Lebanon and Israel have been actively keeping the Council apprised of incidents across the Blue Line. The incidents are not insubstantial.

Finally, in other circumstances the issue of the long duration and cost of UNIFIL might have been raised. However, because of the current situation in Lebanon and the level of Council support for Lebanon in other contexts at this time, it seems unlikely that any change in the size of UNIFIL or in the structure of its mandate would be considered.

Council Dynamics
Because of sensitivities about Council involvement in the substance of Middle East issues relating to Israel and its neighbours, Council members participating in the Quartet (a group leading the diplomatic effort on the Middle East and the Palestinian question and composed of the Secretary-General, the European Union, Russia and the US) are unlikely to want to link the implementation of resolution 1559 to the question of the UNIFIL mandate. Rather, it is more likely that they will prefer that renewal be seen as an essentially technical exercise.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that the Council will take up the substance of the cross border issues being raised by Lebanon and Israel. It would not be welcomed by the Quartet, on the grounds that it is not possible to see what concrete or practical measures the Council could take that would assist the situation.

It is likely therefore that a consensus will readily be found among Council members on the simple renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate.

Underlying Problems
The Lebanese government still does not have full control over South Lebanon. The 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war required the “disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and required the government to “deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel.” So did resolution 1559. The Lebanese government has not tried to forcibly disarm Hezbollah. Prior to Israeli withdrawal in 2000, Lebanon justified its position by the fact that Hezbollah was fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel. After 2000, Hezbollah focused on the Israeli occupation of the Sheb’a farms and became involved in Lebanese politics. Its electoral success as a political party now makes it difficult for the Lebanese government to implement the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and the Taif Agreements.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1614 (29 July 2005) extended the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 January 2006 with no change.
  • S/RES/1583 (28 January 2005) extended the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 July 2005 and expressed intention to review the mandate and structure of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) on the Syrian withdrawal.
  • S/RES/1461 (30 January 2003) extended the mandate of UNIFIL and took note of the completion of the reconfiguration of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1337 (30 January 2001) extended the mandate of UNIFIL by six months, reduced the level of its military personnel and endorsed the reconfiguration of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1310 (27 July 2000) extended the mandate of UNIFIL by six months and endorsed the understanding that the Force would redeploy in South Lebanon.
  • S/RES/523 (18 October 1982) extended the mandate of UNIFIL by 3 months and authorised it to conduct humanitarian tasks.
  • S/RES/520 (17 September 1982) condemned the Israeli incursions and demanded an Israeli withdrawal.
  • S/RES/516 (1 August 1982) authorised the deployment of military observers in and around Beirut.
  • S/RES/426 (19 March 1978) approved the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 425.
  • S/RES/425 (19 March 1978) called for strict respect for the international integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, urged Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory, and established UNIFIL.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2000/21 (18 June 2000) recognised that Israel withdrew from all of Lebanese territory.
  • S/PRST/2000/18 (23 May 2000) strongly endorsed the report of the Secretary-General of 22 May 2000.
  • S/PRST/2000/13 (20 April 2000) welcomed the decision of Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.
  • S/PRST/2000/3 (31 January 2000) called for the implementation of resolution 425 and expressed concern at the continuing violence in South Lebanon.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2005/673 (26 October 2005) Second semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).
  • S/2005/460 (20 July 2005) Report on UNIFIL from 21 January 2005 to 20 July 2005.
  • S/2005/272 (29 April 2005) First semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).
  • S/2005/36 (20 January 2005) Report on UNIFIL from 21 July 2004 to 20 January 2005.
  • S/2004/777 (1 October 2004) Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1559 (2004).
  • S/2001/423 (30 April 2001) Interim report on UNIFIL that proposed a plan for the reconfiguration of the force.
  • S/2001/66 (22 January 2001) recommended a reconfiguration and a reduction of the Force.
  • S/2000/590 and Corr.1 (16 June 2000) concluded that Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon.
  • S/2000/460 (22 May 2000) Report that verified the implementation of resolutions 425 and 426 (1978).

Other

  • S/2005/755 (5 December 2005) Letter from Lebanon listing all Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty during November 2005.
  • S/2005/747 (1 December 2005) Letter from Lebanon on Israeli violations of the Blue Line on 21 November 2005.
  • S/2005/746 (1 December 2005) Letter from Lebanon listing all Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty during October 2005.
  • S/2005/731 (22 November 2005) Letter from Israel on Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel across the Blue Line that occurred on 21 November.
  • S/2005/715 (14 November 2005) Letter from Lebanon on Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty from 1 to 9 November 2005.
  • S/2005/725 (17 November 2005) Letter from the Secretary-General expanding the scope of the mandate of his Personal Representative Geir O. Pedersen to the whole of Lebanon.
  • S/2005/216 (31 March 2005) Letter from the Secretary-General on the appointment of Pedersen as his Personal Representative for southern Lebanon.

Historical Background

21-22 November 2005

Hezbollah and the IDF engaged in a heavy exchange of fire along the Blue Line.

29 June 2005

Hezbollah and the IDF engaged in a heavy exchange of fire in the Sheb’a farms area.

19 June 2005

Hezbollah won all seats in Southern Lebanon in the parliamentary elections.

13 May 2005

Repeated shelling occurred across the Blue Line by both Israel and Hezbollah around the Sheb’a Farms.

26 April 2005

Syria pulled out from Lebanon.

2 September 2004

The Council approved resolution 1559, calling on all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon, all Lebanese and non-Lebanese forces to disband and disarm and supporting the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.

16 May – 7 June 2000

Israeli forces withdrew from South Lebanon.

26 April 1996

The US negotiated an understanding under which Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas agreed not to attack civilians in northern Israel, and which recognised Israel’s right to self-defence but also Hezbollah’s right to resist the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Although Lebanon and Syria did not sign the document, the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group (ILMG), with members from the US, France, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, was set up to monitor the truce.

18 April 1996

An Israeli attack on a UN base at Qana resulted in the death of over 100 Lebanese civilians seeking refuge there.

11 April 1996

Israel launched Operation Grapes of Wrath, bombing Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon, the southern district of Beirut and the Bekaa valley.

25 July 1993

Israel launched Operation Accountability, the heaviest attack since 1982, in an attempt to end the threat from Hezbollah and from the General Command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in southern Lebanon.

22 October 1989

The Taif Agreement was adopted by members of the Lebanese National Assembly. It covered political reform, the end of the war in Lebanon, the establishment of special relations between Lebanon and Syria and a framework for complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

6 June 1985

Part of Israeli troops withdrew but some remained in a security zone in South Lebanon.

1982

Hezbollah was created.

15 September 1982

Israeli forces occupied West Beirut.

6 June 1982

After an assassination attempt against the Israeli ambassador to the UK, and intense exchange of fire across the Israel-Lebanese border, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon called Operation Peace for Galilee.

13 June 1978

Israeli forces had withdrawn from Southern Lebanon. However, the territory was not handed over to UNIFIL but to the SLA.

19 March 1978

The Security Council passed resolution 425, which called on Israel to withdraw from all Lebanese territory and established UNIFIL.

14-15 March 1978

Israel launched a major invasion of Lebanon, occupying land as far north as the Litani River.

3 April 1975

The Lebanese civil war began.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Envoy to the Secretary-General for Implementation of Resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Lebanon

Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major-General Alain Pellegrini (France)

Size and Composition of Mission (31 October 2005)

2,009 troops, assisted by some 50 military observers of UNTSO; and supported by 101 international civilian personnel and 294 local civilian staff
Troop contributing countries: France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Ukraine

Cost (approved budget)

1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $99.23 million (gross)

Useful Additional Sources
Lebanon: Managing the Gathering Storm, ICG Middle East report No. 48, 5 December 2005

Full forecast