November 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 November 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In November the Council is expected to consider the report of the Secretary-General on resolution 1701 (which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006), due mid-month. The Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, and the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, are expected to brief Council members in consultations.

No formal outcome is expected.  The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August 2013.

Key Recent Developments

Council members had been scheduled to meet in consultations on 31 October to hear a briefing from Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Terje Rød-Larsen on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (S/2012/773), which in 2004 called for the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and urged the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory. However, due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy those consultations were postponed until November. The report observed a lack of “tangible progress” and pointed to the crisis in Syria as a contributing factor to that lack of progress. 

Between the drafting of the 1559 report and the briefing, events in Lebanon continued to demonstrate the negative impact of the Syrian crisis. On 19 October a car bomb detonated in the Ashrafiyah district of Beirut, killing at least 8 people, including its intended target, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, the intelligence chief of the Internal Security Forces. Al-Hassan, an ally of the family of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, had played an integral role in the arrest of a former Information Minister, Michel Samaha, who had been accused of plotting bombings in Lebanon targeting supporters of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Security Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the attack and appealing to the Lebanese people to “preserve national unity in face of such attempts to undermine the country’s stability.” Following al-Hassan’s funeral on 21 October, protestors in Beirut attempted to storm the offices of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, while violent clashes in Tripoli killed at least five people. On 22 October, President Michel Sleiman, Plumby and the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council met in Beirut to underline their solidarity with Lebanon and their determination to bring the perpetrators of the 19 October attack to justice.

Addressing the General Assembly in September, Mikati had reaffirmed Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the crisis in Syria, though additional incidents in October underscored the fragility of that policy. On 1 October, Lebanese officials reported that a Hezbollah commander, Ali Hussein Nassif, had been killed in Syria by FSA forces. According to Hezbollah sources, Nassif was killed “while performing his jihadi duties,” while anti-Assad activists and rebels have taken the incident as evidence that Hezbollah is fighting in Syria and actively coordinating with the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Following claims by the FSA that it had detained 13 Hezbollah members near Homs, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah denied the organisation was directly involved in the Syrian crisis during a televised speech on 11 October. But according to news reports, clashes between pro-Hezbollah forces and Syrian rebels in Syria in regions bordering Lebanon had become a daily occurrence, while cross-border shelling by Syria into Lebanon had also continued. In response to a spate of kidnappings and general lawlessness, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) deployed troops to the Beka’a region in eastern Lebanon on 17 October as part of a new security plan.

In the south, an unmanned aerial vehicle launched by Hezbollah was shot down by Israel after it penetrated Israeli airspace on 6 October. Speaking to the press later that week, Sleiman indicated that the incident underscored the urgent need for a national defence strategy incorporating Hezbollah’s arms. Mikati voiced his support for the president’s position on 15 October, adding that he supported full implementation of resolution 1701. The National Dialogue, the ongoing talks since 2006 between Lebanon’s political leaders, is scheduled to meet on the subject of Hezbollah’s arsenal on 12 November, though press reports suggest the session may be postponed.

On 10 October, UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra chaired a tripartite meeting with senior officers representing the LAF and the Israeli Defence Forces. The parties discussed the implementation of resolution 1701, the acceleration of the demarcation of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and the issue of the Israeli occupation of the northern part of Ghajar. Serra described the meeting as “constructive” and reported that both parties had reiterated their commitment to resolution 1701.

On 1 October, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon held a public hearing at which defence attorneys for the four Hezbollah members indicted by the Tribunal argued that it lacked jurisdiction over the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and should be dissolved. On 24 October the Appeals Chamber unanimously dismissed the challenges raised by the defence. The trials in absentia of those charged are preliminarily set to begin on 25 March 2013. On 9 October, Boutros Harb—the attorney for the family of Gebran Tueni, a member of parliament who was assassinated on 12 December 2005—demanded that the case be referred to the Tribunal, following news reports that recently unearthed documents could link Syria and Hezbollah to the crime. In response, the Tribunal spokesman indicated that though the assassination fell within the Tribunal’s temporal jurisdiction, its prosecutor would still need to present the pre-trial judge sufficient evidence linking the two assassinations. (The Tribunal is empowered to investigate and try assassinations related to that of Hariri that occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005.) 

Key Issues

A key issue impacting the implementation of resolution 1701 continues to be the spill over of the Syrian crisis into Lebanon.  As demonstrated by recent events in Lebanon, including the assassination of al-Hassan, Mikati’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian crisis is under pressure. As the potential for instability in Lebanon increases, the likelihood that Israel and Lebanon will shift from their current cessation of hostilities towards a proper ceasefire decreases. Related to this is the fact that progress on a ceasefire is directly linked to progress on the Israel-Syria peace track, which has been indefinitely postponed.

Other issues related to resolution 1701 include the Israeli occupation of Ghajar, the fact that Hezbollah maintains a significant military capacity beyond the control of the LAF and regular Israeli over-flights into Lebanese airspace. 

Options

The most likely option for the Council is to take no action on the 1701 report. The last Council pronouncement on a 1701 report was a 15 April 2008 presidential statement.

Council Dynamics

Council members’ positions regarding Lebanon remain unchanged in recent months: they are in consensus that UNIFIL is an important stabilising factor between Israel and Lebanon.

Council members are also in agreement on the implementation of UNIFIL’s strategic review, which sought to transfer some security control from UNIFIL to the LAF while better matching UNIFIL’s mandate to its resources. The redeployment of LAF from the south of Lebanon to the north has delayed this process, but it has not negatively impacted the security situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations.

Regarding the Tribunal, Council members have generally underscored the importance of its independence and foresee no Council role in relation to its activities.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents on Lebanon
Security Council Resolutions  
30 August 2012S/RES/2064 This resolution extended the mandate of UNIFIL for 12 months.
30 May 2007S/RES/1757 established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
11 August 2006S/RES/1701 called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.
2 September 2004S/RES/1559 urged the disarmament of all militias and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.
Security Council Presidential Statement  
15 April 2008S/PRST/2008/8 concerned the implementation of resolution 1701.
Security Council Press Statement  
19 October 2012 SC/10799 condemned the 19 October terrorist attack in Beirut.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
17 October 2012
S/2012/773
was the most recent 1559 report.
28 June 2012S/2012/502 was the most recent 1701 report.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Derek Plumbly (UK)

Special Envoy for the Implementation of Resolution 1559
Terje Rød-Larsen (Norway)

UNHCR Statistics for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon as of 24 October 2012
73,393 Syrian refugees registered by the UN in Lebanon with an additional 29,426 being assisted pending registration, for a total of 101,819 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

UNIFIL Force Commander
Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 30 September 2012
Authorised: 15,000 troops
Current: 11,528 military personnel
Troop Contributors: Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, 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 2013.
Cost: 1 July 2012-30 June 2013: $546.9 Million (A/C.5/66/17)