November 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 October 2010
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In November the Council is expected to hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in August 2006. UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams is expected to brief.

It seems that the follow-up to the 3 August Blue Line incident will be discussed. Council members will also have in mind the tense political backdrop in Lebanon and issues relating to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

No formal action is expected. The UNIFIL mandate ends on 31 August 2011.

Key Recent Developments
On 28 October the Council was briefed in consultations by Special Envoy Terje Rod-Larsen on the Secretary-General’s report under resolution 1559. In comments to the press after the briefing, Rod-Larsen expressed very serious concerns about the fragility of the peace in Lebanon and potentially far-reaching regional implications if the situation destabilises.

On 27 October the Tribunal condemned an attack made that day on three of its staff members in Beirut and pledged the attack would not deter its investigation while it gathered facts about the incident. (Apparently the staff were attending an office meeting as part of the investigation when a large group of people arrived at the location and attacked the staff.) On 18 October the Council was briefed by Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco prior to an open debate on the Middle East. Taranco said that there had been a sharp increase in rhetoric and challenges to state institutions in Lebanon related to speculation about potential indictments from the Tribunal. (It is generally expected that at least one indictment will be handed down by year’s end.) Taranco reiterated the Secretary-General’s 6 October statement that the Tribunal is independent, with a clear mandate from the Security Council to uncover the truth and end impunity. The Secretary-General said that the outcome should not be prejudged, nor should there be interference with the Tribunal’s work.

On 17 October Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The two leaders discussed the Tribunal and the 33 arrest warrants issued by Syria on 4 October for Lebanese and international officials in relation to the “false witnesses” case of the former head of Lebanese security, Jamil al-Sayyed. Sayyed says he was detained on unfounded allegations related to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. (Sayyed has also requested access to his criminal file from the Tribunal.)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon on 13-14 October. Ahmadinejad said that he supported Lebanon’s unity and that Iran stood ready to help Lebanon face Israeli aggression. (On 24 August Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech calling upon the Lebanese government to seek military assistance from Iran.)

On 1 October Lebanon informed the Council that Israeli forces had fired rounds toward Lebanese forces in Lebanese territory on 20 September.

On 3 September there was an explosion in Shehabiyeh in southern Lebanon. UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) launched an investigation. Israel alleges it was an explosion of a Hezbollah weapons cache.

On 2 September UNIFIL’s preliminary findings into the 3 August Lebanon-Israel border incident were shared with the parties at a tripartite meeting. (On 3 August there was an exchange of fire along the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon resulting in the death of three Lebanese soldiers, one Israeli officer and one Lebanese journalist.) The investigation established that the area where the Israeli Defense Force was performing maintenance was south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side. However, at issue is who opened direct fire first. It is unclear whether the upcoming 1701 report will offer further clarity beyond what was already detailed in the Secretary-General’s 11 August letter to the Council.

On 30 August the Security Council renewed the UNIFIL mandate for a further year. In past renewals, both Lebanon and Israel made statements to the Council as interested parties. However, because Lebanon is currently a member of the Council, it was afforded the right of reply after Israel’s statement. Lebanon’s initial statement reiterated its commitment to full implementation of resolution 1701. Israel’s statement also voiced its commitment to 1701; expressed concern at Hezbollah’s rearmament in violation of the arms embargo; alleged that Hezbollah impeded UNIFIL’s freedom of movement; and regarding the 3 August incident, demanded that the Lebanese Armed Forces differentiate itself from radical elements. Lebanon in reply emphasised continued violations of Lebanese sovereignty, including incidents involving Israeli cluster munitions in southern Lebanon; daily Israeli overflights; Israeli occupation of northern Ghajar, Sheb’a Farms and Kafr Shuba hills; and an alleged Israeli spy network in Lebanon. Regarding the 3 August incident Lebanon called for the Blue Line to be marked and respected.

On 9 July the Security Council issued a press statement calling for respect of UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and the safety of UNIFIL and UN personnel. The statement was precipitated by an early July incident in which a French peacekeeping patrol was disarmed in a clash with civilians.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Lebanon will undergo its Universal Periodic Review in the Human Rights Council on 10 November. Submissions for the review have focussed on legislation regarded as discriminatory. Examples include the inability of Lebanese women to pass on their nationality to their spouses or children. Submissions also expressed concern about measures that impact negatively on the situation of approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, affecting rights to adequate housing, legal personality and freedom of movement. Concerns about the failure of successive governments since the end of the civil war in 1990 to address past violations including abductions and enforced disappearances are also the subject of submissions.

 

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is how to get Israel and Lebanon to move from the status quo—a fragile cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire and permanent solution. In this regard the Secretary-General’s 11 August letter cited the 3 August incident as an example of how the relatively calm environment in southern Lebanon can quickly change.

Related issues include regular Israeli overflights and its occupation of Ghajar in violation of resolution 1701 and the fact that Hezbollah maintains significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701.

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

The issue of Sheb’a Farms remains frozen.

Options
The most likely option is to take no action, as has been the practice since April 2008, which was the last time the Council issued a presidential statement on resolution 1701.

However, keeping in mind that the 3 August incident was the most serious confrontation since 2006, a statement may be an option, calling for:

  • full implementation of resolution 1701; and
  • strengthened respect for the Blue Line.

In particular, the Council could call for confidence-building measures such as:

  • expedited progress on demarcation of the Blue Line; and
  • Israeli withdrawal from Ghajar.

Council Dynamics
In light of the current political environment, Council members agree that UNIFIL’s role in maintaining stability and helping avoid tension between Israel and Lebanon is especially important.

After the 3 August incident the Council had agreed in principal to meet again on the issue using the informal interactive dialogue format to allow for Israel’s participation. However, it is now unlikely such a meeting will take place since both sides were able to publicly air their views during the UNIFIL renewal.

Most Council members agree that arms smuggling and disarmament remain key issues 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, which is unlikely to gain any immediate traction due to strained Israeli-Turkish relations.

Council members seem to anticipate increasing tension in Lebanon as indictments from the Tribunal approach and are watching developments closely. During the October open debate, several Council members also referred to the Tribunal expressing support for the Secretary-General’s statement and concern for Lebanese political stability. Although at time of writing information was still be gathered about the 27 October incident involving Tribunal staff, a Council press statement seemed to be a possible response.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1937 (30 August 2010) renewed UNIFIL until 31 August 2011.
  • 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 Security Council Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6404 and res. 1 (18 October 2010) was the latest open debate on the Middle East.
  • S/PV.6375 (30 August 2010) was the UNIFIL renewal.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/538 (18 October 2010) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2010/352 (1 July 2010) was the latest report on resolution 1701.

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/506 (1 October 2010) was from Lebanon regarding the IDF firing toward the LAF on 20 September.
  • S/2010/468 (7 September 2010) was from Israel regarding the 3 September explosion in Shehabiyeh in southern Lebanon.
  • S/2010/460 (1 September 2010) was from Lebanon alleging an Israeli spying network in Lebanon.
  • S/2010/430 (11 August 2010) was from the Secretary-General following up his July 2010 report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2010/415 and S/2010/418 (3 August 2010) were letters, respectively from Israel and Lebanon, regarding the 3 August exchange of fire on the Blue Line.

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 August 2010

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current: 11,449 military personnel
  • Troop Contributors: Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei, Cambodia, 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 2011

Cost

1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011: $518.71 million (A/C.5/64/19)

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