April 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 March 2008
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Expected Council Action
In April the Council will discuss a report from the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report is expected on 27 March. (The UNIIIC mandate expires in June.) The UNIIIC Commissioner and future Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, is likely to brief to Council on progress of the investigation.

Also, the Council will have before it a report under resolution 1559 which in 2004 called for the disarming of militias in Lebanon and free and fair presidential elections. Terje Røed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, will likely brief the Council.

Key Recent Developments
On 12 March, the Secretary-General published a report on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that confirmed that the preparatory phase was almost completed. It noted that consultations were underway regarding transferring the investigation from UNIIIC to the prosecutor, indicating that a declaration that the tribunal is “operational” may be expected soon. The Council addressed this report in consultations on 27 March and adopted a press statement taking note of the substantial progress that has been made (SC/9287).

On 10 March, the Council held consultations on the implementation of resolution 1701, which in 2006 called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah and authorised a reinforcement of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed on developments. It seems that they attributed current difficulties in implementing resolution 1701 to the ongoing domestic political crisis in Lebanon. Recent belligerent statements from Hezbollah were mentioned along with its possible rearmament with weapons smuggled from Syria. Other issues raised included the deadlocked situation in Ghajar (where Israel continues to occupy the northern part of the village in contradiction of resolution 1701), incidents near the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, and ongoing Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace.

The report on the implementation of resolution 1701 published on 28 February also indicated that the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) would be dispatched to Lebanon again soon. It noted a lack of progress on the provision by Israel of data for clearing cluster munitions, the exchange of prisoners and the delineation of the Syrian-Lebanese border, in particular in the Sheb’a Farms area.

Lebanese presidential elections were delayed on 11 March to 25 March, and again, for the seventeenth time, to 22 April. Despite an agreement on a presidential candidate and unanimous support for the Arab League mediation, Lebanese factions failed to agree on the composition of the future government and on a new electoral law.

In late February, the US confirmed that a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Cole, was patrolling close to (but outside) Lebanese territorial waters. This was strongly criticised by Syria and by Hezbollah as military interference.

Options for the Council on the tribunal and the UNIIIC reports are to:

  • take no action and await developments; or
  • adopt a statement welcoming the steps taken by the Secretary-General and encouraging transfer of the investigation to the tribunal before UNIIIC’s mandate expires.

Regarding implementation of resolution 1559 options include:

  • a statement expressing concern at the presidential vacuum and urging the Lebanese factions to find a solution; and
  • expressing concern at reports of militias rearming contrary to the disarmament objectives of resolution 1559.

Key Issues
The timing of the transition from UNIIIC to the tribunal is a key issue. The Council will be looking to hear Bellemare’s position on this issue.

A related issue is how much progress UNIIIC has made in identifying possible suspects in the Hariri murder and other bombings in Lebanon and links between them. (The tribunal will be competent to judge suspects involved in other cases of assassinations based on the existence of such links.) It may be that UNIIIC will continue to be cautious about revealing much information preferring to leave it to the prosecutor to publicly reveal outcomes in indictments.

A major issue with significant bearing on all of the problems in Lebanon on the Council’s agenda is whether the Arab League summit scheduled for 29-30 March in Damascus will make progress towards resolving the Lebanese political crisis. The Lebanese government decided on 25 March to boycott in protest against Syrian support for the opposition political factions in Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also decided to reduce the level of their presence at the summit. Lebanon, an issue will be whether the Council should again take up the wider underlying issues.

Regarding the 1559 report, issues likely to come up include:

  • whether there are new allegations or evidence of weapons transfers across the Syrian-Lebanese border; and
  • whether there have been new reports of sustained military activities by militias (in October the Lebanese government expressed concerns at the establishment of military bases close to the Syrian border by the PFLP-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada receiving weapons from Syria, although Syria has strongly rejected those assertions).

Council Dynamics
During the last consultations on resolution 1701, the US and some European members emphasised concern about arms transfers, cluster munitions, and the lack of progress on prisoners. The Europeans expressed concern about Israeli overflights, and the US about the role of Iran and Syria in relation to alleged breaches of the arms embargo. Indonesia, Libya, Russia and South Africa pointed out that there was no evidence of arms smuggling. Russia criticised the US decision to send a warship close to Lebanon. It seems that there was a common concern at Hezbollah’s provocative statements, along with the need to address the situation in Ghajar and to try to get to the bottom of allegations regarding arms transfers. Council members apparently supported the Secretary-General’s plan to send another LIBAT mission as well as the Arab League mediation.

The consensus on the necessity to implement resolution 1701 is undermined somewhat by divisions on priorities and a wide scepticism that in the absence of progress on the domestic political front there is little hope of progress on the 1701 process. (At press time, there was no agreement on a Council response to the 1701 report.) The divisions on priorities will likely make discussions on the 1559 report also difficult. In particular, any attempt to increase pressure on Syria or to criticise breaches of the arms embargo will likely meet resistance (by Libya, South Africa, Russia and perhaps Burkina Faso). As to the political crisis in Lebanon, some think that the Council should address this issue. However, others believe that it should remain a Lebanese internal issue.

On the issue of the tribunal, some members (China and Libya in particular) fear that in the current environment the process is becoming politicised. They prefer therefore that discussions on the investigation and the tribunal should be conducted separately from other issues. In addition, some—including China, Indonesia and Russia—are seeking clear information about the progress of the investigation before it is transferred to the tribunal. A dispute about the renewal of the UNIIIC mandate could be brewing.

UN Documents

Selected Resolutions

  • S/RES/1757 (30 May 2007) established the Special Tribunal under Chapter VII and requested a report within 90 days and then regularly.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory and free and fair presidential elections.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • 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/2008/173 (12 March 2008) was the latest report on the tribunal.
  • S/2008/135 (28 February 2008) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2007/684 (28 November 2007) was the latest UNIIIC report.
  • S/2007/629 (24 October 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1559.

Selected Letters

  • S/2008/164 (6 March 2008) was Syria’s position paper on the 1701 report.
  • S/2008/155 (4 March 2008) was a letter from Lebanon detailing Israeli violations of Lebanon’s territorial integrity in February.
  • S/2008/102 (15 February 2008) was Lebanon’s position paper on the 1701 report.

Latest Press Statement

  • SC/9287 (27 March 2008) welcomed the latest report on the tribunal.

Other Relevant Facts

UNIIIC Commissioner and Future Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal

Daniel Bellemare (Canada)

Special Tribunal’s Registrar

Robin Vincent (UK)

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Implementation of Resolution 1559

Terje Røed-Larsen (Norway)

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

To be appointed

Useful Additional Sources

  • The New Middle East, Marina Ottaway, Nathan J. Brown, Amr Hamzawy, Karim Sadjadpour, Paul Salem, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2008

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