February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
The Council will continue to follow events in Lebanon closely, particularly the ongoing negotiations regarding the presidential election. The Council’s position on the need to resolve the impasse quickly is clearly on record. Further Council action is only expected in February in the event of specific adverse incidents.

The Secretary-General will likely report on progress regarding the establishing of the special tribunal for Lebanon in late February. The Council may hold consultations on that issue.

Key Recent Developments
At press time, the presidential election had not yet been held, having been postponed 13 times (it was re-scheduled for 11 February). President Emile Lahoud’s term in office ended on 23 November. In late November, all Lebanese factions seemed ready to elect General Michel Suleiman, the current commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, as president. However, the Hezbollah-led opposition has continually delayed the actual election, using it as a bargaining lever to force the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to agree to change the composition of the government and allot it a third of the seats, giving it de facto veto power.

There have been many international initiatives to end the impasse.

  • France has consistently played a leading role in trying to bridge the gap between the parties.
  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Beirut in November and subsequently held telephone talks with Lebanon’s political leaders.
  • The Council on 11 December adopted a presidential statement calling for an immediate election.
  • On 17 December, at the occasion of the Paris donors’ conference for the Palestinian territories, a communiqué on Lebanon was issued by the representatives of Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US and the EU. It called for an immediate presidential election, insisted that outside powers should respect Lebanon’s constitution and democratic institutions, condemned all political assassinations in Lebanon and supported the legitimate, democratically-elected Lebanese government and the Lebanese army.
  • On 6 January, the Arab League adopted a three-point plan, endorsing the choice of Michel Suleiman, calling for his immediate election and for the formation of a national unity government in such a way that no party could impose or block any decision. The president would be the arbiter in any contested decision, and there would be a new electoral law.
  • Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa went to Beirut twice in January to lobby the parties, and to Syria where he met President Bashar Al-Assad. He then said that the Arab League initiative had reached a closed door that could be re-opened but that the parties needed more time.
  • On 14 January, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that Lebanon’s political crisis would be taken to the UN if the Arab League plan failed.
  • Another Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting was scheduled for 27 January in Cairo.

In December, in deference to the electoral process, the Council initially had delayed consultations on the latest report of the Secretary-General. (Please see our December 2007 Forecast). However, it seems that eventually Council members accepted that, in light of the prolonged electoral delays, normal Council business regarding Lebanon should continue. The report was considered on 12 December.

On 12 December, a terrorist attack in Baabda killed General François el-Hajj of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and others. The Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the attack.

Several developments in January prompted Council action:

  • On 8 January, a roadside bomb wounded two Irish peacekeepers.
  • On the same day, Israel complained to the Council about the firing from southern Lebanon of two rockets into northern Israel. At press time this incident was being investigated by UNIFIL.
  • Also on 8 January, Lebanon complained to the Council about Israel’s detention of a Lebanese shepherd who had allegedly crossed the Blue Line.

The Council on 11 January adopted a French-sponsored press statement condemning the first two incidents and calling on all parties to respect the Blue Line.

On 15 January, another attack targeted a US embassy vehicle in northern Beirut, killing four Lebanese. This was condemned by the Council in a press statement on 18 January.

On 21 January, the Lebanese army opened fire on Israeli warplanes flying over south Lebanon. This was the second such incident.

Finally, on 25 January, another bombing in Beirut killed Captain Wissam Eid, a member of the Internal Security Forces and a senior intelligence officer. Other people were killed and at least 30 were wounded. And on 27 January, demonstrations in Beirut turned violent and at least eight people were killed. At press time France was considering submitting a press or presidential statement to the Council.

On 21 December, the Secretary-General announced that the UN and the Netherlands had signed a headquarters’ agreement enabling the special tribunal for Lebanon to be based at The Hague. He also announced that he had accepted the recommendations of the selection panel and would formally appoint the judges and announce their names at a later stage. The Secretary-General made no comment about the date on which the tribunal will become operational.

Commissioner Serge Brammertz on 5 December held his final briefing (he was replaced on 1 January by Daniel Bellemare) on progress in the investigation of Rafik Hariri’s murder and all other bombings in Lebanon by the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC). He said that the Commission had identified a number of people who might have been involved in the preparation and execution of the crime. He also reported that links might exist between some of the perpetrators in various attacks, and that confirming those links would be a priority in the coming months. He said that cooperation with Syria had improved considerably, but despite these positive developments, it was still impossible to tell when the investigation would end.

Options

Options include:

  • reiterating concerns about the election’s delays;
  • welcoming the Arab League plan; and
  • continuing the wait-and-see approach so as to avoid any risk of destabilising the political process.

On the tribunal, Council options include:

  • welcoming the recent developments in a press or a presidential statement; and
  • calling on all member states to make voluntary contributions to the tribunal’s trust fund.

Key Issues
The main issue remains whether any Council action at this stage could make a positive difference. There has been reluctance to do anything that might undercut the Arab League mediation. However, that mediation seems to be losing momentum. A related issue is whether the current power vacuum may be a cause—or at least an aggravating factor—in the increase in violence witnessed in the last two months.

A further related issue is whether the status quo is becoming in effect a new constitutional reality. The longer it continues, the more people become accustomed to it and governance carries on.

The main issue regarding the tribunal is when it will be operational. At press time, the necessary 51 percent of the tribunal’s costs to be covered by member states had not been secured. Another issue is whether the tribunal prosecutor would continue to be the UNIIIC commissioner.

Council Dynamics
France has the lead on Lebanon. On the Lebanese presidential election, the general mood remains one of “wait and see”. Many in the Council are concerned that further Council action is likely to risk unsettling the Lebanese political process. It remains to be seen how much longer France and the US would wait before pushing the Council to take up the issue again.

It also remains to be seen how the presence of new Council members will influence dynamics. An interesting development is the role that Libya played during negotiations on the 11 January press statement. It seems that Libya, supported by most if not all non-European elected members, argued that it was inappropriate to condemn the rocket attack against Israel without also referring to Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanon’s airspace because both constitute violations of resolution 1701. After almost two days of negotiations, agreement was reached on a text that also included a paragraph recalling all previous condemnations of violations of resolution 1701.

UN Documents

Selected Resolutions

  • S/RES/1757 (30 May 2007) established the tribunal under Chapter VII and requested a report within ninety days.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1595 (7 April 2005) established UNIIIC.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) called upon all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon, for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, supported the extension of the control of the Lebanese government over all Lebanese territory and declared its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon in accordance with Lebanese constitutional rules and without foreign interference.

Latest Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2007/47 (12 December 2007) condemned the terrorist attack that claimed the life of Lebanese armed forces General François el-Hajj and killed and wounded others.
  • S/PRST/2007/46 (11 December 2007) expressed “deep concern at the repeated postponements of the presidential election in Lebanon.”

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2007/684 (28 November 2007) was the ninth UNIIIC report.
  • S/2007/641 (30 October 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2007/525 (4 September 2007) was the report on the establishment of the tribunal.

Latest Letters to the Secretary-General and the Security Council

  • S/2008/12 (8 January 2008) was a letter from Israel on the 7 January incident involving rocket firing into northern Israel from Lebanon, emphasising that UNIFIL needed to be more proactive to prevent such attacks.
  • S/2008/11 (8 January 2008) was a letter from Lebanon on Israel’s violations of Lebanon’s territorial integrity in December 2007 and in the year 2007.
  • S/2008/3 (2 January 2008) was a letter from Israel pointing out that the 21 December monthly briefing on the situation in the Middle East omitted mention of the situation of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah in July 2006.
  • S/2007/737 (17 December 2007) was a letter from the Secretary-General informing that the special tribunal’s headquarters agreement between the UN and the Netherlands has been initialed.
  • S/2007/735 and S/2007/736 (12 and 14 December 2007) was an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council responding positively to a request from Lebanon for UNIIIC technical assistance to investigate the murder of General El-Hajj.
  • S/2007/669 (12 November 2007) and S/2007/670 (14 November 2007) was the exchange of letters regarding the appointment of Daniel Bellemare to replace Serge Brammertz as UNIIIC commissioner.
  • S/2007/631 (30 October 2007) was a letter from Lebanon enclosing a position paper on implementation of resolution 1701.

Press Releases

  • SC/9230 (18 January 2008) was the Council’s press statement condemning the 15 January terrorist attack against a US diplomatic vehicle in Beirut.
  • SC/9223 (11 January 2008) was the Council’s press statement condemning the 8 January incidents in Lebanon.
  • SG/SM/11347 (21 December 2007) was the Secretary-General’s latest announcement on the special tribunal.

Other Relevant Facts

UNIIIC Commissioner and Future Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal

Daniel Bellemare (Canada)

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for implementation of resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major General Claudio Graziano (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current (30 November 2007): 13,264 military personnel, supported by some 304 international civilian and 583 local civilian staff
  • Troop-contributing countries: Belgium, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey

Cost (approved budget)

1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: $748.20 million (A/C.5/61/23)

Useful Additional Sources

17 December Paris communiqué

Full forecast