August 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 July 2011
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In August the Security Council is expected to extend the UNIFIL mandate for a further year. This is the fifth renewal since the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel in 2006. Given the increased tension and an uncertain political climate in the region and the recent attacks on UNIFIL it is possible that the resolution will contain elements reflecting these developments. 

A meeting with troop-contributing countries, including a possible briefing by UNIFIL’s force commander, is likely prior to the adoption.  The mandate expires on 31 August.

 

Key Recent Developments
On 27 July the force commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) briefed the Council during an interactive meeting on UN peacekeeping operations. He talked about safety concerns in southern Lebanon and its impact on operations. 

On 26 July the Council issued a press statement condemning an attack on a UNIFIL convoy. Earlier that day, a bomb exploded on a road regularly travelled by UNIFIL, injuring six French peacekeepers. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack. (It follows a similar attack on 27 May.)

On 21 July Michael Williams, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the Council in informal consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest 1701 report. He said the cessation of hostilities was holding despite the 15 May Al-Nakba protests when the Israeli army used direct fire against demonstrators approaching the technical fence before employing other crowd-control measures. He also signalled concern that the Syrian situation might spark inter-religious clashes in Lebanon. 

On 16 July Mikati visited UNIFIL headquarters (he is the first premier to ever do so) expressing support for UNIFIL and stressing the Lebanese government’s commitment to the implementation of resolution 1701

In early July Israel deposited its proposed coordinates with the UN for the maritime boundary with Lebanon. Lebanon deposited its proposed coordinates on 9 July and 11 October 2010. The disputed maritime boundary has become a point of tension recently with Lebanon’s new government indicating that any unilateral measures by Israel in the disputed area (approximately 850 square kilometres) might be considered aggression. Lebanon is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; Israel is not. 

On 7 July the new Lebanese government agreed on a ministerial statement that:

  • stated Lebanon’s commitment to resolution 1701;
  • but contrary to resolution 1701 the statement effectively allows Hezbollah to continue as an armed force, citing its resistance role; and
  • regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon—the statement says “the government respects international resolutions…and…will follow [the Tribunal’s] progress…which was established to achieve…justice, without politicization…and without impact on Lebanon’s stability”.

On 30 June the Tribunal transmitted a sealed indictment and arrest warrants to the Lebanese government. However, the identities of the indicted were leaked in the Lebanese press which reported four names—seemingly all Hezbollah members. Lebanon has thirty days to arrest the suspects at which point the Tribunal may publically call on them to surrender. (The Tribunal issued international arrest warrants to Interpol on 8 July.)

On 2 July the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said no power would be able to arrest the four who were indicted.

 

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 five years—cessation of hostilities—toward a formal ceasefire and permanent solution. But progress seems more remote than ever. 

Peacekeeper’s freedom of movement so that UNIFIL may fulfil its mandate is currently a major issue, especially given the bomb attacks on 26 July and 27 May.

A further issue is the lack of an established 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 and heightened rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon over their respective national rights to such natural resources.

The crisis is Syria is also likely to delay any resolution to the issues of Ghajar and Sheb’a Farms, both unimplemented dimensions of resolution 1701.

The security arrangements for an Israeli military withdrawal from northern Ghajar to redeploy south of the Blue Line have been completed. However, progress seems to have been suspended by Israel after the collapse of the Lebanese government in January. Ghajar is a village straddling the Blue Line, parts of which extend into Lebanese territory. Its residents are Syrian (mostly Alawite) who after Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981 were granted Israeli citizenship. Lebanon administered the area from 2000 to 2006.

Regarding Sheb’a Farms, Syria has linked it 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.

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

 

Options
Options available to the Council include:

  • given the attacks on UNIFIL to reenergise its working processes vis-à-vis troop-contributing countries (TCCs), perhaps by inviting TCCs to meet with the Council Working Group on Peacekeeping prior to the formal meeting;
  • simply renewing the UNIFIL mandate as it currently stands for another year;
  • renewing the mandate with new elements on the security of UN peacekeepers and the need to respect their freedom of movement; and
  • reenergised Council language addressing the key issues with the goal of calming the situation.

In regard to the Israeli-Lebanese maritime boundary, Lebanon has suggested assigning UNIFIL the task of installing a buoy line based on international law. However, UNIFIL is not mandated or technically equipped to deal with such legal issues.  An option for the Council is to request the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the issue and to indicate some provisional measures to assist the existing tripartite mechanism between UNIFIL, Lebanese and Israeli forces to manage any possible security dimensions that may arise due to current tensions.

Regarding the Tribunal, there are no immediate issues for the Council. However, given the ambiguous language in the Lebanese ministerial statement on the Tribunal the issue may come to fore in the coming months.

 

Council Dynamics
Council members agree that UNIFIL continues to be an important stabilising factor between Israel and Lebanon—especially in light of the current developments in the region. Most seem to accept that continued quiet in southern Lebanon may be the only achievable goal in the medium term. 

Many Council members (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Nigeria and Portugal) are troop-contributing countries to UNIFIL. All are likely to have interests in the security and freedom of movement of peacekeepers. India during its presidency in August intends to focus on peacekeeping and relations with TCCs.

On the issue of the Lebanese government’s ministerial statement, most Council members welcome Lebanon’s commitment to its international obligations.  Commitment to resolution 1701 was reiterated by Lebanon—an elected member of the Council—in a 22 June letter to the Council and made explicit in the ministerial statement. However, the comfort level among Council members on implementation of the resolution by the new government, both on the Tribunal and in terms of allowing Hezbollah to continue as an armed force, is not high. 

Many Council members have repeatedly emphasised the importance of the Tribunal’s independence. If Lebanon does not cooperate with the Tribunal then some may consider it necessary to address that development in some way.  

Lebanon is likely to be uneasy about any deviation from past practices when it comes to the UNIFIL renewal or addressing Tribunal issues in the Council.

Most Council members agree that arms smuggling and disarmament remain key concerns but seem to accept that progress is only likely in the context of an inter-Lebanese dialogue and improvement on the Israel-Syria track, which at this juncture seems unlikely any time soon. 

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

 

UN Documents

Security 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 to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.
  • S/RES/1701  (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) strongly encouraged Syria to delineate its common border with Lebanon.
  • S/RES/1559  (2 September 2004) urged the disarmament of all militias and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.

Security Council Press Statement

  • SC/10341 (26 July 2011) and SC/10264 (27 May 2011) condemned the attacks on UNIFIL convoys.

Security Council Letters

  • S/2011/400 (22 June 2011) was a position paper by Lebanon on implementation of resolution 1701.

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/406 (1 July 2011) was on resolution 1701.
  • S/2011/258  (19 April 2011) was on resolution 1559.

 

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 31 May 2011

Authorised: 15,000 troops
Current: 11,832 military personnel
Troop Contributors: Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, 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, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, 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.5/65/15)

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