August 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2007
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which expires on 31 August. The Council will receive recommendations from the Secretary-General in early August and an extension of the mandate for 12 months is likely.

The UNIFIL resolution is likely to be considered separately from any Council consideration of substantive issues in Lebanon.  At time of writing, these were the subject of intense negotiations over a presidential statement regarding arms smuggling from Syria and other issues covered by resolution 1701.  In the event that the statement is not adopted by 31 July it is expected to be taken up again in early August.

Key Recent Developments
Fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam militants operating out of the Palestinian refugee camp, Nahr el-Bared, in northern Lebanon continued in July and even intensified. There had been at least 221 casualties including 100 Lebanese soldiers.

The Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) report published on 26 June noted that the Syrian-Lebanese border was not secure, in part because Lebanese forces lacked both capacity and will.

The Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1701, issued at the end of June, noted the following.

  • Instability was ongoing, especially terrorist bombings, attacks against UNIFIL, the firing of rockets against Israel and fighting in Palestinian camps posed a huge challenge to the stability of the country.
  • There had been a significant increase in Israeli air violations.
  • Reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Syrian-Lebanese border remained disturbing. Israel continued to claim that Hezbollah was rebuilding its military capacity north and south of the Litani River.
  • The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah Intifadah had reinforced their outposts throughout Lebanon. This could not occur without the knowledge and support of the Syrian government.
  • Syria should do more to control its border with Lebanon and that specific proposals should be presented by the Syrian authorities before September.
  • There had been no progress on the issue of the abducted Israeli soldiers, but Hezbollah hinted at a possibility of a compromise before the next report on resolution 1701 in September.
  • Syria had not restarted the work of the Syrian-Lebanese Border Committee.
  • There had been solid progress toward a provisional geographical definition of the Sheb’a Farms. The UN cartographer would hold talks with the relevant parties including Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

The US, the UK and France proposed a draft presidential statement endorsing the LIBAT recommendations, supporting the Secretary-General in his efforts on the Sheb’a Farms issue and addressing other key issues related to the implementation of resolution 1701, including language urging Syria to do more to prevent arms smuggling and to reactivate the Syrian-Lebanese Border Commission.

In June, the Lebanese government requested a one-year renewal of the UNIFIL mandate. On 12 July, UNIFIL troop-contributing countries met and reportedly discussed ways to enhance UNIFIL’s security, which has become a serious matter of concern with the 24 June attack that killed six peacekeepers.

The Council also received on 12 July the latest report of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The report noted that the investigation was making good progress and had identified more individuals possibly involved in the assassination. It also identified “commonalities” between the Hariri murder and other attacks, all linked to the political context in Lebanon following the adoption of resolution 1559 in 2004. However, the situation in Lebanon has made witness cooperation and staff recruitment difficult.

On 14 and 15 July, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs organised an inter-Lebanese meeting near Paris, gathering 31 representatives of all 14 political groups involved in Lebanon’s national dialogue, including Hezbollah and civil society. The discussions focused on the need to strengthen the Lebanese state. France subsequently intensified its diplomacy to assist resumption of political dialogue in Lebanon including breaking new ground by sending a high level envoy to Syria.

Options
The Council could:

  • decide upon a one-year extension of an unchanged UNIFIL mandate;
  • decide to renew and perhaps enhance the mandate, in particular in the field of disarmament;
  • include additional measures in the resolution regarding the safety and security of UNIFIL personnel; and
  • let the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations readjust the way UNIFIL operates to reinforce its own security, without changing the mandate.

Finally, given that it is the anniversary of resolution 1701, the Council could revisit whole set of 1701 issues and perhaps readjust those elements that have remained at a standstill or have deteriorated. These include:

  • strengthening the arms embargo;
  • addressing the issue of Israeli overflights;
  • pressing Syria to do more to prevent arms smuggling and to reactivate the Syrian-Lebanese Border Commission;
  • endorsing Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s seven-point plan regarding the Sheb’a Farms;
  • urging more progress on the issue of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners;
  • calling for the resumption of the inter-Lebanese dialogue; and
  • reiterating the call on Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether to revisit the 1701 process in August or, instead, proceed with a simple UNIFIL extension, leaving the substantive elements to separate presidential statements.

One issue that may arise during discussions on the UNIFIL mandate is the increasing threat to UN troops and personnel in southern Lebanon. The Council may have to decide whether there is a need to reflect this in the resolution or whether adjustments at the operational level would suffice-including a better use and availability of adequate equipment (such as counter improvised explosive device technology); enhanced coordination with the Lebanese army, within UNIFIL and within the Tripartite commission; improved contacts with the local population; and a change in patrolling strategies.

Finally, a key issue is arms smuggling. Because UNIFIL is not deployed along the Syrian border it is not responsible for monitoring cross-border traffic. The Council therefore has to identify other ways to enhance border security and will be eager to assess the results of the implementation of the LIBAT recommendations.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Although the US at one point seemed to prefer a reinforcement of the arms embargo, there now seems to be consensus among the P3 (the US, the UK and France) that action on smuggling of weapons should be a progressive process. Stronger measures, such as Council monitoring or enforcing compliance with resolution 1701 through sanctions, would be considered only if there is clear proof of arms smuggling or if the implementation of the LIBAT recommendations reveals itself to be insufficient.

The US seems keen to increase pressure on Syria regarding the border delineation issue with Lebanon.

Most Council members seem to agree that UNIFIL should not be deployed along the border with Syria at this stage.

Most Council members are concerned about growing risks to UNIFIL and accept that modifications in the way UNIFIL operates may be needed to increase the security of troops.  However, most consider that a modification of the mandate is unnecessary.

The troop contributors also have serious concerns about safety and security. They are therefore cautious about expanding UNIFIL’s mandate.

Most Council members seem likely to agree that delinking renewal of UNIFIL from the 1701 political issues is desirable.

On the issue of Syrian-Lebanese border monitoring, some, especially the US, believe that in addition to the LIBAT recommendations, the Lebanese have to make more effort, such as reinforcing border crossings, establishing more checkpoints and better coordinating the work of Lebanese agencies. 

Underlying Problems
On the Sheb’a Farms, although Israel has now engaged in discussions with the UN cartographer, a final solution is still some way off.

The issue of the abducted Israeli soldiers has not made any progress. It seems unlikely that Hezbollah will soften its position in the absence of movement on the Lebanese prisoners in Israel.

Security in the south remains volatile, especially in light of the recent attacks against UNIFIL. Although probably perpetrated by armed groups connected to the Palestinian militias, it remains unclear whether they were undertaken with Hezbollah’s consent.

Selected UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • 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.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and militias to be disarmed.
 Latest Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2007/21 (25 June 2007) condemned in the strongest terms the 24 June attack against UNFIL near Khiyam
 Latest Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2007/424 (12 July 2007) was the latest UNIIIC report.
  • S/2007/392 (28 June 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2007/382 (26 June 2007) was the LIBAT report.
  • S/2007/262  (7 May 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
Selected Letters
  • S/2007/409 (5 July 2007) was a letter from Lebanon enclosing a statistical table of Israeli violations in June.
  • S/2007/396 (29 June 2007) was a letter from the Secretary-General enclosing a Lebanese request for a one-year extension of UNIFIL without amendment.

Other Relevant Facts

 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 30 June 2007): 13,286 military personnel, including 11,113 ground troops and 2,000 personnel in the Maritime Task Force, in addition to 179 staff officers at the Naqoura headquarters and 21 national support elements, assisted by 51 UNTSO military observers. As of 5 June, there were 706 UNIFIL 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 2007 – 30 June 2008: 748.20 million

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