August 2009 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August. The Council is expected to extend it for another year. It seems possible that the recent explosions in southern Lebanon will complicate the negotiation of the text.

Key Recent Developments
On 23 July, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy briefed the Council on recent incidents in Lebanon. Fourteen UNIFIL soldiers were injured on 19 July in southern Lebanon when protesters tried to stop an investigation of explosions that occurred on 14 July. News reports said these were caused by the detonation of a Hezbollah arms cache, which Hezbollah denied.

UNIFIL had earlier stated on 15 July that it considered the incident a “serious violation” of resolution 1701. In that resolution, the Council mandated UNIFIL to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in the establishment of an area free of armed personnel, assets and weapons—other than those of the government or UNIFIL—in southern Lebanon.

On 29 June the Secretary-General issued a report on resolution 1701, covering March through June 2009 (S/2009/330). He noted that the cessation of hostilities continues to hold, but he also reported that progress on implementing the provisions of resolution 1701 has been mixed. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces continued to demonstrate a coordinated presence by operating a number of co-located checkpoints, as well as conducting coordinated foot patrols. Progress was made with the visible marking of the Blue Line, with both parties and UNIFIL continuing to measure coordinates and construct markers. The report also cited as a positive development Israel’s handover of technical data on cluster bombs to UNIFIL.

However, the report also noted that violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles continued on a regular basis. The Secretary-General’s report said that these intrusions were in violation of resolution 1701, and Lebanon and UNIFIL have protested the flights. The Secretary-General reported that Israel maintained the overflights were necessary on the basis that the arms embargo laid out in resolution 1701 allegedly lacked enforcement.

In addition, the Israel Defense Forces continued to control part of the village of Ghajar, north of the Blue Line, in what the Secretary-General’s report pointed out was a violation of resolution 1701. In 2008, UNIFIL submitted a proposal that would facilitate the full withdrawal of Israeli forces. This proposal was met with Lebanese approval last year. UNIFIL and Israeli officials have met twice in 2009 to discuss the proposal. Israel has not given a final response because of a policy review being undertaken by the new Israeli government.

The Secretary-General’s report also noted that, with the exception of some civilians carrying hunting rifles, UNIFIL did not encounter unauthorised armed personnel during the period. However, Israel contends that Hezbollah has continued to increase its military capacity in Lebanon, including within the UNIFIL area of operations, through the use of private homes. UNIFIL is unable to conduct searches of private homes in the absence of credible evidence pertaining to a certain location. No such evidence had been shared with or discovered by UNIFIL at the time of the report’s publication.

While the Secretary-General reported that there were no serious breaches of the cessation of hostilities during the reporting period, he also stated that Hezbollah maintained a significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006), which poses a significant challenge to Lebanon’s ability to exercise control over its territory. The report concludes with a call for greater efforts by the parties to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

Human Rights-Related Developments
Since the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon presented its report (A/HRC/3/2) to the Human Rights Council on 1 December 2006, various implementation activities have been taking place involving the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva and the OHCHR Regional Office for the Middle East in Beirut. A Protection Working Group co-chaired by the OHCHR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees is looking into human rights aspects of economic and social recovery programmes emphasising a rights-based approach to health, education and housing. No date has yet been set for further Human Rights Council consideration of the Commission of Inquiry report and its implementation activities.

Key Issues
Council members generally consider that UNIFIL is worthwhile and has achieved a good result. Yet an important underlying issue is the fact that resolution 1701 has not been fully implemented: Hezbollah remains armed, rocket attacks into Israel have occurred, Israeli flights into Lebanon continue and Israel still occupies the village of Ghajar.

The recent arms explosion may lead to proposals for language in the August mandate renewal resolution. If so, it will become an important issue because such proposals seem certain to be matched by calls for equivalent language addressing Israel’s violations of 1701.

A separate issue relates to the Maritime Task Force (MTF) naval component of UNIFIL. The number of ships taking part in the MTF was recently reduced with the withdrawal of the Belgian naval component at the end of May. While the MTF has not intercepted any arms shipments, the naval component is still viewed as important and some discussion of this is possible.

Options
Options available to the Council include:

Council Dynamics
Council members appear agreed that continuation of the UNIFIL mandate is necessary. The Council appears to concur with the conclusion of the Secretary-General in his latest report that resolution 1701 “remains the best available blueprint” leading to a permanent ceasefire.

Council members are generally satisfied with the implementation of resolution 1701. There is an understanding on the part of Council members that the lack of progress in some areas will likely continue until a lasting solution is found. The US is emphasising the recent explosions in Lebanon, apparently caused by the detonation of a large quantity of arms and ammunition maintained by Hezbollah. The US also recognises that Israeli overflights constitute violations, but describes them as understandable in light of the fact that the borders of Lebanon have not been adequately secured to prevent the entry of illegal arms and materiel.

Some members may suggest that a review of the size of UNIFIL should be considered. Decreasing the size of the MTF and trying to increase capacity with the Lebanese military may be discussed. On the other hand possible changes to UNIFIL might form part of a separate discussion on peacekeeping operations generally. Council members will be conscious that as of January 2010 Lebanon is likely to be a member of the Council and this will inevitably impact Council dynamics on these issues.

France is the lead country on this issue in the Council.

Selected UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1832 (27 August 2008) renewed the UNIFIL mandate until 31 August 2009.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel and called for full implementation of resolutions 1680 and 1559.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) strongly encouraged Syria to delineate its common border with Lebanon.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all militias, and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/330 (29 June 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2009/218 (24 April 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1559.

Selected Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6120 (7 May 2009) was a briefing by the Secretary-General’s envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on his latest 1559 report.

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

  • Michael Williams (UK)

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

  • Terje Rød-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

  • Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 May 2009

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current: 12,158 military personnel
  • Troop Contributors: Belgium, Brunei, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey

Cost

  • 1 July 2008 – 30 June 2009: $680.93 million (A/C.5/62/30)

Full forecast