In December the Council is expected to intensify its focus on the fragile situation in Lebanon. The report of the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will be of heightened interest given the assassination of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel on 21 November.
The Council will also receive the second Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1701, which in August called for a cessation of hostilities during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, authorised a reinforcement of the UN Interim Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and extended its mandate. Set against the background of withdrawal of Hezbollah ministers from the cabinet and threats of street violence, this report will also feed into a very tense and evolving situation.
Key Recent Developments
The troop level of UNIFIL reached 10,480 military personnel from 21 countries on 24 November. Force Commander Major-General Alain Pellegrini said that UNIFIL is nearly at sufficient strength. Several caches of illegal weapons have been seized.
Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace, considered a breach of resolution 1701, have continued. The Israeli government claims that its over-flights are justified until the arms embargo is fully implemented.
Following consultations on the last Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1559, which urged Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the disbanding of militias, the Council adopted a presidential statement on 30 October welcoming the report. The Council noted that important progress had been made and that it was looking forward to the Secretary-General’s next report on implementation of resolution 1701 and his further recommendations on the relevant outstanding issues. However, some Council members expressed concern over the lack of details regarding the reported allegations of continued arms shipments to Lebanon. Syria has protested vigorously against observations made in the report.
Political tensions increased in Lebanon between the anti-Syrian March 14 Coalition (comprising Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties led by Saad Hariri, the son of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) and the Shi’a parties Hezbollah and Amal along with their Maronite ally, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by Michel Aoun. On 1 November, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, called on Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government to resign and allow the formation of a national unity government. In effect, this would provide Hezbollah with a blocking minority power over cabinet decisions. Hezbollah said street demonstrations and other “random actions” would cause the government to collapse if the demand was not met.
On 6 November, Lebanese political leaders started negotiations on Hezbollah’s demands. The talks collapsed after several days and, on 12 and 13 November, six ministers (out of 24) from Hezbollah, Amal and the FPM resigned.
Opposition to the proposed international tribunal to try perpetrators of the attack that killed Rafik Hariri became one of the symbols of Hezbollah opposition to the government. After the withdrawal of Hezbollah cabinet ministers from the government, the Lebanese government in an extraordinary session of the cabinet approved the draft UN framework for the creation of an international tribunal. Syria recently stated its opposition to the tribunal.
On 14 November, the Lebanese president sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General opposing the cabinet’s approval of the tribunal on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. This action seems to have been interpreted by the government and within the Security Council as political rather than founded in constitutional law.
The Secretary-General’s report on the establishment of a special tribunal for Lebanon was submitted to the Council on 15 November. It contains the agreement between the UN and Lebanon on the creation of the tribunal and its statute. The tribunal will be competent to prosecute the perpetrators of other attacks with “similar characteristics” to the Hariri assassination (criminal intent, purpose behind the attacks, nature of the victims targeted, pattern of the attacks and perpetrators are all elements necessary to establish the connection) that occurred in Lebanon from 1 October 2004 to 12 December 2005. The Council considered the Secretary-General’s proposals for the tribunal on 21 November and expressed support for its establishment. The agreement will now have to go through constitutional processes in Lebanon. It has already been approved by an emergency session of the cabinet held after the resignation of the six ministers.
On 21 November, Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s industry minister and a Christian member of the March 14 Coalition, was shot dead in Beirut, further heightening tensions between pro- and anti-Syrian Lebanese. The Council immediately adopted a presidential statement condemning Gemayel’s assassination. The Lebanese prime minister requested UNIIIC to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in investigating this assassination (S/2006/914). This request was granted by the Security Council (S/2006/915).
reinforcing the arms embargo by establishing a sanctions committee;
increasing the role of international monitors at the border;
addressing the issue of Israeli over-flights; and
urging the Secretary-General to intensify his efforts under resolution 1701.
whether the report will provide new information on the degree of linkage between the Hariri assassination and other attacks in Lebanon (to avoid prejudicing future legal cases, the report may need to remain somewhat vague on specific cases);
the degree of Syrian cooperation with the investigation;
the time remaining for the investigation to be completed, as this will have an impact on the beginning of the tribunal’s activities; and
whether Serge Brammertz’s mandate as Chief Commissioner will be prolonged for an additional six months (until the end of the mandate of UNIIIC) before his appointment expires on 31 December.
The broader issues arising in respect to Lebanon include the Secretary-General’s proposals under resolution 1701, paragraph 9 (on reaching an agreement between Lebanon and Israel on a long-term solution) and paragraph 10 (making proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords regarding disarmament and the delineation of the border with Syria). The Council has had interim updates on the Sheb’a Farms aspect but as yet nothing on the wider issues, and it is still unclear whether the next 1701 report will contain such information.
Defining the status of the Sheb’a farms is a major concern. Many Council members think that Syria’s contradictory behaviour, declaring that the area belongs to Lebanon but refusing to delineate the border, is part of the problem. Some think that a form of temporary international administration over the land, until legal and cartographic work is complete to enable transfer to Lebanon, would be a satisfactory transitional decision and would eliminate Hezbollah’s pretext for remaining an armed movement.
Allegations of arms shipments from Syria to Lebanon in violation of the arms embargo are a key issue. In his last 1559 report, the Secretary-General did not provide details. However, the reports have since been denied by both the Lebanese and the Syrian governments. Since the allegations could provide the Israeli Defense Forces with reasons to continue over-flights of Lebanese air space, Council members may want to hear additional details. If they are verified, the question of whether and how the arms embargo should be reinforced would arise.
Some members seem to consider that, in the absence of recommendations and information on progress toward implementation of resolutions 1559 and 1701, the role of the Council is limited. In the short term, because a permanent settlement needs long-term political efforts and the current Secretary-General clearly cannot carry this through during his last month in office, detailed input from the UN in December is unlikely. Second, there is a growing view in the Council that bilateral and regional diplomacy needs to be re-energised especially to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, which some consider as vital for resolving the underlying Israeli-Lebanese problems. On the other hand, some members believe that political stability should be re-established in Lebanon before moving forward on implementation of resolutions 1559 and 1701.
The idea of initiating contacts with Syria and Iran in order to address the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian issues has been raised in a number of quarters. However, it has been resisted to date, apparently on the basis that there was no sign that Syria and Iran were seriously ready to negotiate.
For some Council members, the security of UNIFIL troops remains a major issue. Perhaps there are also growing concerns about the implications for forces in Lebanon arising from Iran’s possible reaction to the adoption of sanctions against its nuclear programme. France is also concerned about the Israeli over-flights as they contribute to tensions and provide Hezbollah a pretext to backtrack on 1701.
The Lebanese issue remains strongly linked in many minds to other issues in the region, especially Iran and Israel/Palestine. The Secretary-General indeed recently urged both Iran and Syria to contribute to promoting stability in Lebanon.
The possibility that pro-Syrian forces will seek to delay the Lebanese parliament’s approval of the agreement on the tribunal is a potential further issue. The president-who already said that he would not sign the agreement arguing the cabinet session that approved it was unconstitutional-has the right to request from parliament a reconsideration of any measure. But the Council of Ministers has to approve any such request and even if it does, the law would become legally operative if the request has not been acted on after a month (article 57 of the Lebanese constitution). However, only the Speaker of the House, Nabih Berry (a member of Amal), can call a parliamentary session; he has also stated that the cabinet approval was unconstitutional.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|Latest Presidential Statements|
For more details please refer to our: 25 September Special Research Report on resolution 1701; August 2006 Forecast and 20 July Update Report on Lebanon/Israel; April 2006 Forecast on resolution 1559; and the December 2005 Forecast on the Golan Heights and UNDOF.
|Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for resolution 1559|
|Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)|
|UNIIIC Chief Commissioner|
|Serge Brammertz (Belgium)|
|Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Lebanon|
|Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)|
|UNIFIL Force Commander|
|Major-General Alain Pellegrini (France)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
|Cost (approved budget)|
|1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007 $97.58 million (gross): this amount does not yet take into account the financial implications of the expansion of UNIFIL.|
Useful Additional Sources
Israel/Hizbollah/Lebanon: Avoiding Renewed Conflict, Crisis Group Middle East Report N°59, 1 November 2006