July 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 June 2007
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Expected Council Action
Lebanon seems likely to produce even greater challenges in July amid conflict between the Lebanese army and Palestinian militants, reports of widespread rearming of Lebanese militias and increasing security challenges to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Council seems ready to maintain momentum on resolution 1701 (which in August 2006 called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL).

On 26 June the Council received the report of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT), established in April.  The report on implementation of resolution 1701 will be introduced shortly after, and consultations are likely in early July. The Council is expected to take action on the LIBAT recommendations. Consensus may be harder to find on all issues connected to the 1701 report.

The next report of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) is due on 15 July. This is a progress report, and the Council is unlikely to take action unless new important elements are revealed.

Key Recent Developments
Fighting continues between the Lebanese army and Palestinian Fatah al-Islam militants in the Nahr-al Bared camp in northern Lebanon. By 19 June, at least 163 people were reported killed, including 74 soldiers, more than 57 militants and 32 civilians. Most of the 40,000 refugees of camp fled. Humanitarian aid has been hindered by unexploded ordnance and shooting. Two Red Cross workers were killed.

Clashes also broke out on 2 June between the army and militants from another Islamist group, the Jund al-Sham, in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon. Incidents were reported elsewhere in Lebanon, including government reports of mobilisation of heavy weapons by Palestinian outposts and cross-border movements of personnel and material from Syria, as Lebanon notified the Council in a 12 June letter.

On 11 June, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing support for the Lebanese government. It also emphasised the need to protect civilians. In the statement, the Council expressed concern at mounting evidence of illegal movements of arms into Lebanon.

This followed a briefing on the latest report by Terje Rød Larsen, the UN Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559 of 2004, in which the Council had urged that foreign forces withdraw from Lebanon and militias be disarmed.

Several bombings occurred in Beirut. On 13 June a Lebanese member of parliament, Walid Eido, was killed with his son and eight others in a car-bomb attack in the capital. This was denounced by the Council in a presidential statement on 13 June, and the Council also agreed to authorise UNIIIC to add this crime to those already under investigation.

On 11 June, in the absence of domestic political action, the Lebanon special tribunal entered into force according to resolution 1757, which on 30 May established the Lebanon Tribunal under Chapter VII.

A delegation headed by Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab league, arrived in Beirut on 19 June to encourage Lebanese politicians to resume a national dialogue but left without securing a political deal. France is scheduled to hold an informal meeting with rival Lebanese leaders in mid-July.

On 17 June, a rocket attack was launched against Israel, causing no casualties but damaging infrastructure. It was condemned by the Council in a press statement as a breach of the cessation of hostilities. Hezbollah denied involvement. A previously unknown group called “Jihad Badr Brigade” claimed responsibility and there are strong suspicions that Sunni extremists (perhaps trying to open a new front in support of the besieged Fatah al-Islam group) were involved.

On 24 June, a bombing incident in southern Lebanon killed six UNIFIL peacekeepers from Colombia and Spain and wounded two others. This was condemned not only by the Government but also by Hezbollah and President Emile Lahoud. The Council condemned the attack in the strongest terms in a presidential statement. The Lebanese authorities said that militants from Fatah al-Islam who were arrested had confessed a plan to attack UNIFIL in the south.

The LIBAT report noted that the current state of security on the Syrian-Lebanese border was insufficient to prevent arms smuggling, and that cross-border petty smuggling usually “accepted” was blurring the picture of more serious border crimes such as arms trafficking. Not one report of arms smuggling was provided to the team. The presence of armed Palestinian camps in the border zone also constitutes a major obstacle. The team recommended enhancing border equipment; establishing training programs; establishing cooperation with Syria at the operational level; and deploying international border security experts to reinforce a Lebanese multi-agency mobile force with an intelligence and analysis component.

In response to the LIBAT report (and the 12 June letter from Lebanon), the Council could:

  • Confront the transfer of weapons from Syria. Reinforcing the arms embargo is one option. Establishing a sanctions committee is another. Expanding the mandate of UNIFIL and its deployment along the Syrian-Lebanese border is less likely. This would require a Lebanese request. It is unclear if additional forces would be available or if troop contributing countries would agree.
  • Settle for the Secretary-General’s recommendations and call for enhanced bilateral technical assistance.

The Council may wish to keep the LIBAT and 1701 consultations separate. This means it could proceed with two different texts or a single measure.

On the Sheb’a Farms, our June Forecast Report outlined options. The Council could either adopt a soft approach encouraging further cartographic work or request the Secretary-General to provide details on the next steps in view of placing the farms under interim UN jurisdiction, as requested by Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora in his “seven-point plan.”

On disarmament, the Council could:

  • Reiterate calls to disarm Palestinian and other militias in the context of an inter-Lebanese dialogue and;
  • Express support for Lebanon’s action against Palestinian militants;
  • Link its language on disarmament with more specific action on the cross-border movement of weapons, e.g. the options set out above;
  • Consider the balancing option of addressing Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace or call on Israel to stop them.

The Council could also take steps to reinvigorate the Secretary-General’s role, especially on the long-term peace process, the issue of the abducted Israeli soldiers and the emerging Palestinian-related complications.

Finally the Council could adopt specific language addressed to the enhanced risk faced by UNIFIL at this time.

Key Issues
A key issue is how to respond to the LIBAT report, in the light of the explicit details in Lebanon’s 12 June report on cross-border weapons transfers.

A related issue is the movement of arms within Lebanon and allegations that all militias are rearming, which directly challenges resolution 1701.

A further important issue is how to revive the Lebanese political dialogue.

The Sheb’a farms issue seems increasingly to be overshadowed by wider issues within Lebanon and between Israel and Syria. An immediate question for the Council is whether to request the Secretary-General to produce some specific recommendations.

As the first anniversary of the 2006 war approaches, continuing violations of the Blue Line attract increasing concern, as was evidenced by the Council’s reaction to the 17 June rocket attack.

Council Dynamics
For the US and the UK, the major issue is the movement of weapons across the Syrian border. The Non-Aligned Movement members of the Council (Indonesia, Qatar, Panama, Peru, South Africa, Ghana, Congo, supported by China and Russia) consider that Israeli overflights should be regarded equally seriously.

The US supported a strong LIBAT mandate and may seek to reinforce the arms embargo. But others, in particular France, seem reluctant to adopt coercive measures, fearing the potential for destabilisation.  At the very least they believe that it is necessary to maintain momentum on all aspects of the 1701 resolution, including steps leading to a long-term solution.

On the Sheb’a farms, the US-reflecting Israel’s position-is likely to remain cautious. The Israeli government has been in a fragile position since the publication on 30 April of the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the military campaign in Lebanon in 2006.   The full report was due in June, and may further weaken the government. Territorial concessions on Sheb’a farms may not be politically achievable for Israel at this time.

France sees the issue of Sheb’a farms as an integral part of the 1701 process and may link any response to the LIBAT report with progress on the farms and other issues.

Underlying Problems
Elements in Lebanon are rapidly rearming and this is a worrying development. While the focus is on Palestinian militias and Hezbollah, other factions may also be re-arming, which raises the prospect of widespread fighting across the political divide. 

The latest events in the south seem to confirm the fears over the past months that Sunni Islamist militants are a major risk for UNIFIL. It also seems to reflect a new challenge to the traditional Hezbollah leadership in the south.

UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1757  (30 May 2007) established the Tribunal under Chapter VII.
  • S/RES/1701  (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1664  (29 March 2006) requested negotiation with Lebanon on a tribunal of international character.
  • S/RES/1559  (2 September 2004) urged all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and all militias to be disarmed. It supported the extension of the Government of Lebanon’s control over all Lebanese territory and a free and fair electoral process.
 Selected Presidential Statements
  • S/PRST/2007/21 (25 June 2007) condemned in the strongest terms the 24 June terrorist attack near Khiyam against UNIFIL.
  • S/PRST/2007/18 (13 June 2007) condemned the terrorist attack that killed Lebanese MP Walid Eido.
  • S/PRST/2007/17 (11 June 2007) expressed concern at illegal movements of arms and supported the Lebanese army’s efforts to restore stability in Lebanon.
  • S/PRST/2007/12  (17 April 2007) requested a Syrian-Lebanese border assessment mission.
 Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2007/382 (26 June 2007) was the LIBAT report.
  • S/2007/262  (7 May 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2007/147 (14 March 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2007/367 (18 June 2007) letter from Lebanon transmitting a position paper on implementation of resolution 1701 and including all Israeli violations since March.
  • S/2007/356 and S/2007/357 (14 June 2007) exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council extending UNIIIC’s technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities for the investigation of the Eido murder after a Lebanese request.
  • S/2007/351 and S/2007/352 (13 June 2007) exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council on the extension of Serge Brammertz’ appointment as head of UNIIIC until 31 December.
  • S/2007/348 (12 June 2007) letter from Lebanon on the Palestinian militias military build-up and mobilisation, and expanded confrontations with the Lebanese army.
  • S/2007/318 (30 May 2007) statement by Prime Minister Siniora concerning events in the Nahr al-Bared camp, pointing out that refugees were used as human shields by Fatah al-Islam.

Other Relevant Facts

 LIBAT Mission
 Led by Lasse Rosenkrands Christensen (Denmark) and composed of experts from Algeria, Germany, Jamaica and Switzerland.
 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 31 May 2007): 13,225 military personnel, supported by some 210 international civilian and 353 local civilian staff
  • Troop-contributing countries: Belgium, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania and Turkey
 Cost (approved budget)
 1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: US$496.62 million.

Useful Additional Sources

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