November 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2011
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In late November, Council members are expected to hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which in August 2006 called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel. Representatives from the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief the Council. 

No formal action is expected. The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August 2012.
Council members will also have in mind the spill-over effects in Lebanon from the crisis in Syria.

Key Recent Developments
On 30 August, the Council adopted resolution 2004, which renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for a further year and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of the peacekeeping force by year’s end. 

At press time, the Secretary-General’s next report on the implementation of resolution 1701 was due in mid-November and is expected to portray the situation in southern Lebanon as relatively stable, except for a major incident on 26 July when a bomb exploded on a road regularly travelled by UNIFIL, injuring six French peacekeepers (a similar incident occurred in May). The report is expected to lay out mitigating security measures that have been implemented since those incidents. The report is also expected to track ongoing issues such as Israeli-occupied northern Ghajar, demarcation of the Blue Line, Israeli over-flights, security along the line of buoys and progress with the strategic dialogue between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

On 27 October, Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s 1559 report . The report focused on recent Syrian incursions into Lebanon, ongoing challenges in disarming militias, the lack of progress in delineating the Syrian-Lebanese border and developments in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. 

On 6 October, Syrian troops crossed into Lebanon and killed a Syrian national. Lebanese media reported a similar incident the following day. On 19 October there were clashes on the Lebanese border between Syrian forces and Syrian civilians and army defectors reportedly fleeing to Lebanon. The incident resulted in several deaths, but there were varying reports about the number of casualties and whether the incident took place on Lebanese or Syrian territory. (There are approximately 3,000 Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR in Lebanon, but Lebanese officials estimate the number at 5,000.)

On 27 October media reports indicate that Syrian troops were mining an area near the Lebanese border apparently to stop weapons smuggling into Syria.

Regarding the Special Tribunal, on 10 October Judge Sir David Baragwanath was elected as its new president. (Former president, Judge Antonio Cassese, had resigned for health reasons and passed away on 21 October after a long illness.)

On 17 October, the Tribunal’s pre-trial judge asked the trial chamber to determine if trial in absentia could be initiated. The trial chamber will hold a public hearing on this issue on 11 November. (The Lebanese prosecutor general had previously reported to the Tribunal that Lebanese authorities had failed to detain any of the four men indicted in July for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The accused are all Hezbollah members.) Trial activity is not anticipated before mid-2012.

Regarding funding of the Tribunal, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman both made statements about Lebanon upholding its international commitments, including its contribution to the Tribunal (49 percent of the budget). However, it seems the issue of funding continues to be problematic in the Hezbollah-led government. On 24 October, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that his party opposed funding the Tribunal. At press time, Lebanon had not yet paid its 2011 contribution, due by mid-November, nor had Beirut agreed to the funding provision in its 2012 budget.

On 24 October, Nasrallah said that the situation in Syria was improving. He had previously called on Syrians to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in May.

On 22 October, Tehran criticised Damascus for its crackdown but discouraged international intervention. A similar statement had been made in September.

Analysts note that Hezbollah receives much of its international support from Syria and Iran.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is how to encourage Israel and Lebanon to move from the status quo—a fragile cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire. But the current political climate in the region makes progress seem more remote than ever. 

Other issues include regular Israeli over-flights 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.

The issue of Sheb’a Farms also remains frozen.

Regarding the Tribunal, there are no immediate issues for the Council. (The Tribunal’s mandate expires in March 2012.) 

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

Council Dynamics
Council members agree that UNIFIL is an important stabilising factor between Israel and Lebanon—especially in light of the current developments in Syria. However, achieving a permanent ceasefire seems remote and Council members realise that continued quiet in southern Lebanon may be the only achievable goal in the medium term. 

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. (The Lebanese national dialogue process seems to have stalled over the issue of Hezbollah’s arms—it last met in November 2010. The Israel-Syria peace track seems indefinitely postponed given the current Syrian crisis.) 

Council members see the strategic review of UNIFIL requested in resolution 2004 to be in line with good peacekeeping practice to optimise resources to tasks.

Council members are supportive of the UNIFIL-LAF strategic dialogue, which aims at moving forward tasks that UNIFIL can transfer to the Lebanese Armed Forces, a key provision of resolution 1701. 

Regarding the Tribunal, Council members underscore the importance of the Tribunal’s independence and foresee no Council role in its activities.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2004 (30 August 2011) renewed UNIFIL until 31 August 2012.
  • 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.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/648 (19 October 2011) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2011/406 (1 July 2011) was the latest report on resolution 1701.

Security Council Press Statements

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

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon

 Vacant at press time

Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

Terje Rød-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas (Spain)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 30 September 2011

Authorised: 15,000 troops
Current: 12,304 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, Luxembourg, 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 2012

Cost

1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012: $545.47 million (A/C.5/65/19)

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