August 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2010
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In August the Security Council is expected to extend the UNIFIL mandate for a further year. The mandate expires on 31 August. This is the fourth renewal since the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel in 2006 and it comes at a time of increased tension and uncertainty. Some words from the Council designed to calm the current situation are possible.

Key Recent Developments
On 14 July, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701. He said that while 1701 has enabled four years of stability between Israel and Lebanon, he would have hoped for more progress on core obligations, including Israeli withdrawal from Ghajar, finalisation of Lebanon’s borders and disarming of militias. While Israel and Lebanon’s commitment to 1701’s implementation was welcome, the Secretary-General’s report noted that neither are “doing enough in this regard.”

Department of Peacekeeping Operations head Alain Le Roy also briefed on 14 July. (On 24 and 25 July, Le Roy travelled to Lebanon and met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) force commander.)

On 9 July the Security Council issued a press statement in response to incidents involving clashes between civilians and UNIFIL peacekeepers, in particular those of 29 June and 3 and 4 July. The statement called for:

  • respect of UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and the safety of UNIFIL and UN personnel; and
  • reinforcing cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and increasing LAF’s deployment in southern Lebanon.

The Secretary-General’s report expressed concern regarding UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, indicating that some of these incidents “cannot but cast doubt on the motives of those involved.” On 29 June, Williams said “some…may have been spontaneous….but some were clearly organised.”

The 9 July Council consultations and a press statement were precipitated in particular by an incident in which a French peacekeeper was disarmed in a clash with civilians during a 36-hour maximum-strength exercise by UNIFIL (the LAF was informed but chose not to participate). The 9 July press statement was the first Council pronouncement on 1701 since April 2008.

The Council welcomed Beirut’s statement of 8 July deploring the incidents and reaffirming its commitment to implementation of resolution 1701. Beirut has also signalled its intent to augment the LAF in the south with two additional battalions. (At press time it appeared the deployment of one of these battalions would be complete by 29 July.)

On 22 July, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said he expected, as early as September, that the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would indict some Hezbollah members in relation to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the current prime minister’s father. He denied any involvement by Hezbollah and charged that the Tribunal had been politicised. Nasrallah said Hariri had informed him, prior to Hariri’s 24 May meeting with US President Barack Obama, that “undisciplined” members would be “accused”. (Hariri denied this.) The Tribunal’s first annual report of March 2010 noted “significant progress towards building a case which will bring perpetrators to justice”. The Tribunal permits trial in abstentia.

On 18 July, Lebanon and Syria signed 17 new bilateral agreements on a range of security and economic issues. However, agreement on progressing border delineation was not one of them. This was the fourth meeting between Hariri and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was reportedly among the topics discussed. Assad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited Beirut on 30 July (it is only the second visit by a Syrian head of state since Lebanon’s independence in 1943 and the first since the 2005 Hariri assassination).

On 15 July Lebanon arrested an employee of a telecom firm, alleging he was a spy for Israel. This followed a similar arrest of another of the firm’s employees in late June. (In April 2009 Lebanon launched an investigation into a spy network, and according to media reports approximately seventy people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel.)

On 7 July Israel alleged it had found further evidence of Hezbollah weapons caches in the village of Khiam. On 14 July Williams said that UNIFIL had no evidence of Hezbollah weaponry in the south.

On 1 July there were media reports that Israeli and US officials alleged that Iran had recently provided Syria with a radar system, raising concern that Syria might share intelligence with Hezbollah. Iran and Syria denied the allegation.

On 23 June the Secretary-General indicated that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take tangible steps toward a withdrawal from Ghajar.

Italy has further extended its command of UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force through the end of August.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council in the current situation is persuading Israel and Lebanon to move from the status quo of the last four years—cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire and permanent solution. The Secretary-General has repeatedly said in his reports that UNIFIL’s existing financial and troop commitments cannot be maintained indefinitely. In this regard, progress on the Israeli obligation to withdraw from Ghajar may be a crucial confidence-building measure. On 14 July, Williams indicated there might be a new approach to the issue of Ghajar in the near future. This may circle back to scenarios floated last year in which an Israeli withdrawal from an uninhabited “adjacent area” of Ghajar might be viewed as a positive first step.

The issue of Sheb’a Farms remains an unimplemented dimension of resolution 1701. Reenergising Council attention is therefore also a current issue. Lebanon has indicated that it would like the UNIFIL mandate to include the Farms. The Secretary-General submitted a provisional definition of the Farms in his October 2007 report on resolution 1701 but neither Israel nor Syria has formally responded. Syria seems willing to deal with issue bilaterally with Lebanon but there seems to be linkage to the wider issue of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Another complicating factor is that the Farms are part of the UN Disengagement Force’s area of operations.

Peacekeeper’s freedom of movement so that UNIFIL may fulfil its mandate is currently a major issue, especially in light of the impact a Tribunal indictment might have in southern Lebanon.

Other issues include the regular Israeli overflights and the fact that Hezbollah maintains significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701.

A further issue that may require closer Council attention is the lack of an internationally recognised maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon. (Israel unilaterally installed a buoy line, which Lebanon does not recognise.) This issue is gaining importance given the recent discovery of underwater natural gas reserves.

Underlying Problems
Any resolution of the Lebanese-Syrian border is closely linked to the Israel-Syria track. Turkey facilitated indirect talks between Israel and Syria but those were postponed after Israeli incursions into Gaza in December 2008 and are unlikely to resume given the strained Israeli-Turkish relationship resulting from the 31 May Gaza flotilla incident where nine Turkish nationals were killed.

Options
Options available to the Council include:

  • simply renewing the UNIFIL mandate as it currently stands for another year;
  • renewing the mandate with a stronger emphasis on the freedom of movement of peacekeepers; and
  • some reenergised Council language addressing some of the issues with the goal of calming the situation.

In regard to the Israeli-Lebanese maritime boundary, one option might be to take up the request of Lebanon to assign UNIFIL the task of installing a buoy line that meets international standards by perhaps asking the Secretary-General for his recommendations.

Council Dynamics
Council members value UNIFIL’s role in maintaining stability between Israel and Lebanon. However, there is a level of uncertainty and anxiety. Some members have concerns that the combination of Iran sanctions and the expected Tribunal indictment may affect the fragile situation and the safety of UNIFIL and UN personnel. Many view the incidents in southern Lebanon in late June and early July as a worrying indicator in that regard.

China, France, Nigeria, and Turkey, as troop-contributing countries to UNIFIL, are likely to support stronger language on freedom of movement of peacekeepers, at least in the preambular paragraphs of the renewal resolution.

Council members welcome the positive and substantive progress in Lebanese-Syrian relations. However, they remain concerned about the lack of concrete action to address the issues of border delineation and arms smuggling. Related to this, most Council members agree that progress on issues related to disarmament is important but accept that it is only likely in the context of the Lebanese National Dialogue. The absence of progress on the Israel-Syria track is also seen as a significant underlying problem.

This will be the first time that Lebanon is on the Council as an elected member during the UNIFIL mandate renewal. Lebanon has suggested expanding UNIFIL’s mandate to include Sheb’a Farms and assigning UNIFIL the task of installing a buoy line. However, most members doubt that there is any appetite for a significant change in the mandate at this point.

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 Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/8 (15 April 2008) was the last presidential statement on resolution 1701.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/352 (1 July 2010) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2010/193 (19 April 2010) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2007/641 (30 October 2007) was the 1701 report containing a provisional definition of Sheb’a Farms.

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/395 (21 July 2010) was from Israel regarding ships from Lebanon reportedly planning to depart for Gaza (see also S/2010/334 and S/2010/321).
  • S/2010/344 (28 June 2010) was Lebanon’s position on the Secretary-General’s 1701 report issued in July.
  • S/2010/159 (29 March 2010) was from the Secretary-General, transmitting the annual report of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
  • S/2010/86 (12 February 2010) was from the Secretary-General, transmitting the conclusions of the Joint Department of Peacekeeping Operations-UNIFIL Technical Review to the Council.

Selected Press Statement

  • SC/9976 (9 July 2010) called on all parties to respect UNIFIL’s freedom of movement.

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

Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas (Spain)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 30 June 2010

Authorised: 15,000 troops

Current: 11,453 military personnel

Troop Contributors: Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey

Duration

March 1978 to present; mandate expires 31 August 2010

Cost

1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011: $518,710,200 (A/C.5/64/19)

Useful Additional Source

Special Tribunal for Lebanon www.stl-tsl.org

Full forecast