March 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 March 2010
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Expected Council Action

Council members are expecting the Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1701 in March which may set the scene for discussion of the Secretariat’s recently completed comprehensive review of UNIFIL. However, the mandate continues until 31 August and it is possible that discussion in the Council will be delayed. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, is expected to brief.

No formal action is expected in March.

Key Recent Developments 
The fifth anniversary of the Hariri assassination was 14 February. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, authorised by resolution 1757 to investigate the killing, is due to submit its first annual report in March 2010 (there have been no indictments to date). Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in December to discuss strengthening cooperation between the two countries. This was his first meeting with Assad since the assassination of his father, former premier Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.

On 14 February the Lebanese army fired on, but did not hit, Israeli aircraft violating Lebanon’s airspace (similar incidents occurred in late 2009). On 10 February Hariri characterised continued Israeli overflights and heightened Israeli rhetoric toward Lebanon and between Israel and Syria as a dangerous escalation.

On 12 February the Secretary-General submitted the conclusions of the Joint DPKO-UNIFIL Technical Review to the Council. The review assessed the operational capacity of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in light of the fact that it has been over three years since the end of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. It did not call for any changes to UNIFIL’s mandate, authorised strength or rules of engagement. However, the Secretary-General emphasised that the current size of UNIFIL could not be sustained indefinitely and that progress must be made toward achieving a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution. The review reached several key conclusions, including:

  • strengthening UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination function with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), in particular the establishment of a liaison office in Tel Aviv;
  • creating a more mobile and flexible force trained and equipped to quickly respond to incidents;
  • establishing a task force to accelerate the demarcation of the Blue Line;
  • formalising a mechanism to facilitate the LAF’s gradual assumption of security responsibility from UNIFIL; and
  • maintaining the Maritime Task Force as an essential component of UNIFIL.

On 31 January 2010 a Lebanese citizen was detained by the IDF and released to UNIFIL the next day.

On 26 December 2009 UNIFIL discovered a cache of explosives outside Khiam in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel. UNIFIL, in cooperation with the LAF, is investigating.

On 18 December 2009 residents of Ghajar, a village that extends north of the Blue Line, protested following media reports that Israel was close to reaching an understanding with UNIFIL regarding an IDF withdrawal. Many residents of Ghajar became citizens of Israel after its annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981. On 21 January Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that no final decision had been made.

On 10 November 2009 a government was formed in Lebanon, five months after the 7 June elections: 15 ministers were appointed from Hariri’s majority coalition, five were appointed by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and ten from the opposition, including two from Hezbollah. The new cabinet adopted a decision which allows Hezbollah to remain armed, citing its resistance role, while assuring the government’s commitment to resolution 1701.

On 4 November 2009 Israel intercepted the ship Francop (sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda), alleging that the weapons found on board were bound from Iran to Hezbollah via Syria, in violation of resolutions 1701 and 1747 (Iran sanctions). Syria, Iran and Hezbollah denied any link to the weapons.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether UNIFIL’s reorganisation and focus on capacity-building and confidence-building measures will, by itself, provide any new incentives for Lebanon and Israel to move from the status quo—cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire and permanent solution.

A related issue is whether progress on Ghajar and the Blue Line may be possible and, if so, whether it may signal scope for more active mediation on other issues, such as Sheb’a Farms and the related question of disarmament.

A further issue is how to respond to the annual report of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is expected to be forwarded to the Council by the Secretary-General (the Tribunal’s reporting requirement is to the Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon).

Underlying Problems
Israeli overflights of Lebanese air space continue in violation of resolution 1701. Hezbollah maintains significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701, but justified by Lebanon in light of the ongoing Israeli occupation of portions of Lebanese territory—particularly the Sheb’a Farms.

In light of recent heightened rhetoric in the region and the numerous incidents in southern Lebanon, one option for Council members is to send a positive signal to help maintain calm. A press or presidential statement could:

  • welcome the recommendations of the UNIFIL comprehensive review and their potential for assisting the parties to move closer to agreement; and
  • reinforce the importance, as this next phase unfolds, of all parties fully meeting their obligations on outstanding elements of resolution 1701.

Council Dynamics
Council members see UNIFIL’s value in maintaining stability but also share the Secretary-General’s observation that the peacekeeping operation’s post-2006 size and structure cannot be maintained indefinitely. However, they are wary of any sudden shifts in size or mandate of UNIFIL given the fragile calm. Most Council members would like to see real momentum towards a ceasefire.

Lebanon, an elected Council member, is supportive of the review’s recommendations. In addition, it would also see value in a more active focus by the Council on the political questions regarding a ceasefire and border issues.

Most Council members agree that progress on issues related to arms smuggling and disarmament is essential but seem to accept that this is only likely to happen in the context of an inter-Lebanese dialogue and improvement on the Israel-Syria track. (Regarding the Francop interception, Council members seem to agree that it is an issue for the Iran Sanctions Committee and is not a 1701 issue.)

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1884 (27 August 2009) renewed UNIFIL until 31 August 2010.
  • S/RES/1757 (30 May 2007) established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • 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/2009/566 (2 November 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2009/542 (21 October 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1559.

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/86 (12 February 2010) was from the Secretary-General transmitting the conclusions of the Joint DPKO-UNIFIL Technical Review to the Council.
  • S/2010/74 (2 February 2010) and S/2010/61 (1 February 2010) were regarded the detention and return of a Lebanese citizen by the IDF.
  • S/2010/11 (7 January 2010) was from Israel regarding the 26 December discovery of an explosives cache in southern Lebanon.
  • S/2009/574 (5 November 2009) was from Israel regarding the Francop interception.
  • S/2009/544 (19 October 2009) was a position paper from Lebanon in preparation for the Secretary-General’s comprehensive review of UNIFIL.
  • S/2009/407 (6 August 2009) was from the Secretary-General to the Council on the UNIFIL mandate renewal including the plan for a comprehensive review of UNIFIL.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Michael Williams (UK)

Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas (Spain)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 December 2009

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current: 11,862 military personnel
  • Troop Contributors: Belgium, Brunei, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Niger, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey


March 1978 to present; mandate expires 31 August 2010


1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010: $589.80 million (A/C.5/63/25)

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