April 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 March 2007
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to take up Lebanon twice during April. Consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701were postponed from March to early April, so as to hear the Secretary-General’s account of his visit to the region. For further details visit our March Forecast.

In the second half of April, the Council is expecting the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1559.

Both reports are expected to be discussed in informal consultations and presidential statements are likely in both cases.

Key Recent Developments
The report on implementation of resolution 1701 was released on 14 March. It noted the following:

  • The near full deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
  • Violations of the Blue Line by both sides during the 7 February incident.
  • An increase of Israeli over-flights of Lebanese airspace. (Israel claims these flights are justified because the captured Israeli soldiers have not been released and the arms embargo is not fully implemented.)
  • UNIFIL and the LAF had not detected illegal transfers of arms south of the Litani River.
  • Hezbollah openly acknowledges conducting armed activities.
  • Israel has briefed UNIFIL several times on alleged serious breaches of the arms embargo on the Syrian-Lebanese border. (This is denied by Lebanese officials and remains to be verified.)
  • Israel’s failure to provide detailed data about the location of cluster munitions used during last summer’s conflict.
  • A lack of progress on the release of Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah.
  • Analysis of cartographic material on the status of the Sheb’a Farms is currently underway. The technical work is expected to be completed by mid-June.

The Secretary-General suggested that the Council consider an independent assessment mission to assess options for monitoring the Syrian-Lebanese border. He also urged neighbours, Syria in particular, to do everything they can to help implement resolution 1701.

The current political crisis in Lebanon entered its fourth month in March. Two core issues continue to divide the majority and the opposition: establishment of an international tribunal to try those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and power sharing within the government. (The opposition is demanding a veto power in the cabinet.)

The president of parliament Nabih Berri, representing the opposition, and the majority leader Saad Hariri opened a political dialogue on 8 March. There seems to be some optimism that a solution to the political crisis could be found before or at the Arab League Summit on 28-29 March in Riyadh.

There has been supportive diplomatic activity in the region reinforcing efforts to find a solution to the Lebanese domestic crisis:

  • On 3 March, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh. The meeting did not produce a specific outcome but it seems to have been a helpful development.
  • On 12 March, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana went to Lebanon, then to Saudi Arabia and Syria. He stressed that the solution to the current political stalemate had to be a Lebanese one.
  • Finally, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Iraq, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon (but not Syria).

On 21 March, Serge Brammertz, the head of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the Hariri assassination, presented his report to the Council. He was optimistic that the Commission would have a “unifying theory” soon for all bombings in Lebanon, but that it was unlikely that the work would be completed by the next reporting period in June. He also noted progress on the motives behind the Hariri assassination, and on the identity of the suicide bomber.

Brammertz also cleared away a negative element which has been in the air since January. He noted that the ten previously uncooperative states had responded positively to his requests for cooperation and all outstanding matters were resolved. At press time Council consideration of a resolution to extend the UNIIIC mandate by twelve months seems to be proceeding smoothly-another positive sign.

Finally, Syrian members of the Islamic militant group Fatah al-Islam, based in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon have confessed to the bombing of two buses in February. There have been tensions between this group and refugees in the camp.

Options
The Council has the following options:

  • use the early April session to approve a presidential statement designed to positively reinforce the current momentum;
  • defer until later in the month how to take up the more difficult aspects of resolutions 1559 and 1701 (when it might be much clearer whether current efforts are bearing fruit);
  • apply a strict approach (especially if progress is minimal) to compliance by all parties-in a balanced way-with resolutions 1559 and 1701;
  • take up the Secretary-General’s proposal for an independent assessment mission to analyse how better to prevent breaches of the arms embargo;
  • urge Israel to phase out its over-flights and perhaps set a series of benchmarks for this.

Key Issues
The main issue at press time is whether the Arab League Summit and other current diplomatic initiatives will help broker a political agreement between the opposition and the Lebanese government. The related issue for the Council is whether to delay taking stock of progress toward the implementation of resolutions 1559 and 1701 until later in April.

The second issue is what to do if there is no progress-or if the domestic crisis worsens. It remains to be seen whether the Council would be ready to pressure Lebanese factions to find an agreement. In the past, both the Council and the Secretary-General seemed to believe that progress could only take place through a political process. But resolution 1701 put the Council and the Secretary-General more squarely in the spotlight, giving them both an important role in finding a “long-term solution”.

As a longer-term goal, the Council will also be looking at the issue of progress on disarming militias.

The fourth issue, and perhaps also one for later in April, is what to do about the incidents described in the report on resolution 1701, including the Israeli over-flights, the delay in delineation of the Syrian-Lebanese border, the reports of arms moving across the border and Blue Line violations. It remains to be seen whether the 1559 report will provide more evidence. A related issue is how to secure the Syrian-Lebanese border. The possibility of deploying UN peacekeepers along the border was raised in the press recently, but the Lebanese government has not made that request yet and Syria had already indicated in the past that it would object.

Finally, there is the impact of the sanctions resolution on Iran. The resolution prohibits Iran selling or exporting any substantial arms. This will restrict the flow of arms to Hezbollah and place additional pressure on Syria to not only stop any smuggling across its borders but prevent entry of Iranian arms cargos to its territory.

Council Dynamics
Council members are hopeful that a Lebanese political agreement can be found. Many expressed such expectation during the 14 March briefing on the Middle East.

Most members still prefer that the issues of disarmament and presidential elections be addressed in the framework of a Lebanese political dialogue. As long as there are signs of progress there is some reluctance to put pressure on the parties at this stage.

However, the arms embargo breaches are progressively becoming a bone of contention. The US tends to share Israel’s concerns and Russia tends to support Syria. If the Secretary-General’s report again contains unverified information about arms smuggling into Lebanon, as in the last 1559 report, Russia and possibly others may protest that in the absence of evidence, it should not be mentioned in the report.

UN Documents on Implementation of Resolution 1559

Resolutions
  • S/RES/1680(17 May 2006) encouraged Syria to respond positively to the Lebanese request to delineate their common border and called for further efforts to disband and disarm Hezbollah and to restore fully Lebanon’s control over all Lebanese territory.
  • S/RES/1559(2 September 2004) urged all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to be disbanded and disarmed. It also supported the extension of the Government of Lebanon’s control over all Lebanese territory and a free and fair electoral process.
Secretary-General’s Reports on Implementation of Resolution 1559
  • S/2006/832(19 October 2006)
  • S/2006/248(19 April 2006)
  • S/2005/673(26 October 2005) second semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559
  • S/2005/272(29 April 2005) first semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559
  • S/2004/777 (1 October 2004) report pursuant to resolution 1559
Presidential Statements on Implementation of Resolution 1559

 

Selected UN Documents on Implementation of Resolution 1701

Security Council Resolution
  • S/RES/1701(11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL and extended the mandate until 31 August 2007.
Latest Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2006/52 (12 December 2006) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1701 and reiterated its support for the current Lebanese government.
Latest Report of the Secretary-General on Resolution 1701

 

Selected UN Documents on UNIIIC

Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1686 (15 June 2006) extended UNIIIC’s mandate by one year.
  • S/RES/1664 (29 March 2006) requested negotiation with Lebanon on a tribunal of international character.
  • S/RES/1644 (15 December 2005) authorised expanded technical assistance to Lebanon and extended UNIIIC’s mandate until 15 June 2006.
  • S/RES/1636 (31 October 2005) urged Syria to cooperate with the investigation and established sanctions against suspects in the Hariri assassination.
  • S/RES/1595 (7 April 2005) established UNIIIC.
Latest UNIIIC Report

 

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Implementation of Resolution 1559
Terje Røed-Larsen (Norway)
Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)
UNIFIL Force Commander
Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy)
Size and Composition of UNIFIL
  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current (as of 15 March 2007): 12,764 military personnel, including 176 staff officers, 10,828 troops and 1,474 maritime task force
  • Troop-contributing countries: Belgium, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Republic of Korea, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania and Turkey
Cost (approved budget)
Commitment authority: 1 July 2006 – 31 March 2007: $350.87 million

 

Useful Additional Sources

  • “Lebanon as a Battlefield? State-Building and Reconstruction” in The Middle East: Fragility and Crisis by Markus E. Bouillon, International Peace Academy, February 2007
  • Hizbollah and Its Changing Identities by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb and Marina S. Ottaway, Carnegie Endowment, Policy Outlook No. 34, January 2007

Full forecast

 

 

Sign up for SCR emails