March 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2013
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In March the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, is expected to brief Council members in consultations on the most recent report of the Secretary-General on resolution 1701 (which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006), due by the end of February. Though no outcome is expected, a press statement following the meeting is possible.

The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August 2013.

Key Recent Developments

Council members last considered Lebanon on 29 November 2012 when they received briefings in consultations from both Plumbly and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, on the November report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1701 (S/2012/837). That report welcomed the general calm that prevailed in UNIFIL’s area of operations but also drew attention to the lack of progress towards a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah and the destabilising effects of a 19 October car bomb assassination that killed Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan (the intelligence chief of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces) and several others.

Though the political consequences of that incident have not been as dire as many speculated they might be, the effects of the assassination have continued to contribute to tensions in Lebanon. On 20 February, a military court judge in Lebanon brought charges against Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese government minister, and Brigadier General Ali Mamlouk, a senior Syrian military official, alleging that they had conspired to kill Lebanese political and religious leaders and encourage sectarian violence. (Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has suggested that the 19 October assassination could be related to the arrest of Samaha in August 2012.) 

More significantly, the National Dialogue—the ongoing talks that began in 2006 between Lebanon’s political leaders and that often focus on the issue of Hezbollah’s arms—has not convened since before the assassination. Talks scheduled for November 2012 and subsequently for the first week of January were cancelled following boycotts by the 14 March political coalition. As a prerequisite for returning to talks, the coalition has called for the resignation of Mikati’s cabinet and the installation of a neutral cabinet to oversee preparations for parliamentary elections currently scheduled for June. (The 14 March coalition takes its name from the date of the “Cedar Revolution”, which followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on 14 February 2005, and is considered to be anti-Syria.)

There remains some risk that the June elections could be delayed. On 19 February a parliamentary joint committee approved a draft electoral law known as the orthodox proposal that would allow voters only to vote for candidates from their own religious denomination. (Lebanese parliamentary seats are allocated to a variety of Christian and Muslim denominations, though voters have previously voted for each seat regardless of their own affiliation.) On 20 February, Dory Chamoun, the leader of the opposition National Liberal Party, accused Hezbollah and others of introducing the controversial law in an effort to delay the elections. Previously, on 18 February, Plumbly met with EU representatives and others to discuss logistical preparations and the registration process related to the June elections. Speaking to the press following the meeting, Plumbly asserted that, “holding the elections on time is a must for stability and democracy in Lebanon”. 

The ongoing conflict in Syria has also continued to negatively impact the political and security situation in Lebanon. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of 26 February there are more than 314,000 Syrian refugees either registered with UNHCR or awaiting registration in Lebanon, more than in any other of Syria’s neighbours. In October, UNHCR began registering Syrian refugees in south Lebanon (though not within UNIFIL’s area of operations), and the upcoming report on resolution 1701 may thus pay increased attention to the Syrian refugee situation and its impact on UNIFIL. 

On 17 February, Lebanese security forces reported the worst fighting near the Syrian border with Lebanon since the start of the Syrian conflict. Three Hezbollah fighters and 12 Syrian rebels were reportedly killed in the clashes near the Syrian town of Qusayr, while two artillery shells fired by Syrian opposition forces reportedly landed in the Lebanese town of Qasr without causing any casualties. Following the fighting, multiple news sources reported that elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army had issued a statement threatening to target Hezbollah in Lebanon with mortars in retaliation for Hezbollah’s support of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. 

Sectarian violence related to the Syrian conflict has also continued to plague the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli: in the first week of December 2012, at least 19 people were killed in clashes between residents of the predominantly Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Muhsin and the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbana. 

On 21 February, Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued a ruling postponing the start of the trial in absentia of four individuals charged in the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri because the prosecution had not yet met requirements that it disclose all evidence to the defence. The prosecution supported the decision to postpone. The trial had previously been set to begin on 25 March; no new date has been decided. 

Key Issues

A key current issue impacting the implementation of resolution 1701 continues to be the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. 

An ongoing issue has been the Israeli occupation of areas north of the Blue Line (the border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon), including the village of Ghajar, in violation of resolution 1701. 

The fact that Hezbollah maintains a significant military capacity beyond the control of the Lebanese Armed Forces is also a key issue. 

Finally, regular Israeli over-flights in Lebanese airspace continue to be a source of concern. 

Underlying Problems

Prime Minister Mikati and other government figures officially practice a policy of disassociation from the Syrian crisis. However, events like the 19 October assassination, sectarian violence in northern Lebanon and the burgeoning refugee situation throughout the country all provide evidence of the pressures such a policy must withstand. Achieving a formal ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon is unlikely so long as the Syrian conflict continues to both destabilise Lebanon and derail the Israel-Syria peace track. 

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. 

However, the Council could adopt a statement that addresses a number of issues, including:

  • urging a resumption of the National Dialogue;
  • encouraging the political process in advance of parliamentary elections scheduled for June; or
  • reaffirming the international community’s commitment to Lebanon in light of spillover from Syria and related refugee situation by calling on states to honour humanitarian aid pledges made at a January donor conference. 
Council Dynamics

Council members continue to agree on a variety of issues related to Lebanon. There is consensus on the Council that UNIFIL contributes to stability between Israel and Lebanon and that the Council must remain vigilant regarding the effects of spillover from the Syrian conflict into UNIFIL’s area of operations. 

Regarding the political situation, Council members also agree that even though there have been no advances with regards to the National Dialogue or disarmament, the fact that the situation has not significantly worsened in light of spillover from Syria is rather positive. 

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 2012 S/RES/2064 This resolution extended the mandate of UNIFIL for 12 months.
30 May 2007 S/RES/1757 This resolution established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
11 August 2006 S/RES/1701 This resolution called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.
2 September 2004 S/RES/1559 This resolution urged the disarmament of all militias and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.
Security Council Presidential Statement  
15 April 2008 S/PRST/2008/8 This was a presidential statement regarding implementation of resolution 1701.
Security Council Press Statement  
19 October 2012 SC/10799 This press statement condemned the 19 October terrorist attack in Beirut.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
14 November 2012 S/2012/837 This was a report on the implementation of resolution 1701 and covered the reporting period from 29 June to 30 October 2012.
17 October 2012 S/2012/773 This was the most recent report on the implementation of resolution 1559.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Derek Plumbly (UK)

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

UNIFIL Force Commander
Major General Paolo Serra (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 December 2012
Authorised: 15,000 troops
Current: 11,003 military personnel

Troop Contributors (as of 31 January 2013): Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, 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: $524 million (A/C.5/66/18)