October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members expect to receive the semi-annual briefing in consultations from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted in 2004, resolution 1559 urged the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory.

Key Recent Developments

Rød-Larsen last briefed Council members on 8 May, reporting that the spillover from the conflict in Syria was having alarming and destabilising effects in Lebanon and the region. He described worsening sectarian tensions in Tripoli, the influx of Syrian refugees and Israeli aerial attacks on Syrian weapons depots. He also correctly assessed that Lebanese parliamentary elections slated for June would not take place. (Elections were postponed to November 2014.)

On 10 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing growing concern about the spillover effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s political, security and humanitarian situations (S/PRST/2013/9). Aside from the regular UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) renewals, this was the Council’s first substantive outcome on Lebanon since 22 May 2008.

The security situation has continued to decline in Lebanon. The 25 May announcement by Hezbollah of its military involvement in Syria on behalf of the Syrian government marked a turning point in the heightening sectarian tension in Lebanon and analysts have noted the recent series of attacks is a signal of increasingly severe sectarian reprisal violence.

The Council issued three press statements in July and August in response to serious security incidents. On 9 July, 53 people were injured when a bomb exploded, and on 15 August a car bomb killed 27. Both attacks targeted Dahiyeh, a predominantly Shi’a neighbourhood of Beirut. On 23 August, 47 people were killed when bombs targeting two Sunni mosques in Tripoli exploded. To increase security, Lebanese security forces deployed in Dahiyeh on 23 September. A similar security plan is expected in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Israeli air strikes in Syria, fears that Syria might transfer its chemical weapons to Lebanon and other cross-border incidents have sparked concerns that Hezbollah or other extremist groups might retaliate, potentially drawing Lebanon further into a broader regional conflict. On 7 August, four Israeli soldiers were injured in a blast after allegedly crossing the blue line between Israel and Lebanon into an area known for landmines. Media reports indicate that Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the blast. An Al-Qaida-linked group, the Azzam Brigades, said it launched four rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon on 22 August. Israeli jets retaliated the next day in Tyre in south Lebanon, bombing a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which denied any connection with rocket launches or the Azzam Brigades. The Secretary-General urged maximum restraint on both sides.

The humanitarian situation has also deteriorated sharply. In September 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that there were approximately 764,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Lebanon estimates that the actual figure is 1.2 million. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, at his 24 September address to the General Assembly, appealed for direct aid to fund the humanitarian response and provision of essential services. On 25 September, the Secretary-General convened the inaugural meeting of the “International Support Group” for Lebanon on the side-lines of the General Assembly.

The political situation remains frozen since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned on 22 March. He now heads a Hezbollah-led government in a caretaker capacity as Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been unable to form a new government. Hezbollah has insisted on a share of ministerial portfolios proportionate to its parliamentary representation, and the 14 March political bloc has refused to participate in a cabinet that includes Hezbollah. Meanwhile, parliament has not met due to a lack of a quorum, and national elections have been postponed until late next year. In this context, the reconvening of the Lebanese National Dialogue—a forum for political leaders to address the issue of Hezbollah’s arms—seems highly unlikely.

On 29 August, the Council adopted resolution 2115 renewing the mandate of UNIFIL for an additional year.

Regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, 13 January 2014 has been set as a tentative start for the trial in absentia of four individuals charged in the 14 February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Key Issues

The key issues are the fact that Hezbollah maintains a significant arsenal not controlled by the Lebanese government and the delineation of the border between Lebanon and Syria has not taken place and will not in the foreseeable future. Another key issue is that the conflict in Syria, and Hezbollah’s unambiguous involvement there on behalf of the regime, has negatively impacted Lebanon.

Underlying Problems

Lebanon’s official policy is one of disassociation from the Syrian crisis. However, Hezbollah’s overt involvement in Syria on behalf of the regime, sectarian violence, and the burgeoning refugee situation throughout the country provide evidence of the pressures such a policy must withstand. The ongoing conflict in Syria will most likely indefinitely stall any effort to implement resolution 1559 fully.

Furthermore, the flow of armaments across the border between Syria and Lebanon has contributed to the expansion of arsenals outside the control of the Lebanese government.

Options

The Council is unlikely to take any action on Lebanon so soon after issuing the recent press statements and adopting the 10 July presidential statement expressing concern about the spillover effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon. However, since the security situation in Lebanon and along the border with Syria has continued to deteriorate, the Council could adopt a statement reiterating its condemnation of such incidents. In a similar vein, a statement addressing the Syrian refugee situation and subsequent humanitarian crisis in the country might also be an appropriate demonstration of support given the challenges Lebanon is facing. Finally, the Council could also issue further statements encouraging Lebanon to form a government and hold its parliamentary elections in order to maintain political stability. 

Council Dynamics

There is agreement among all Council members that the international community should support Lebanon in its efforts to contain the spillover from the conflict in Syria. This consensus was repeatedly displayed in the recently issued press statements that underscored the importance of Lebanon’s disassociation policy in order to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability.

The 10 July presidential statement demonstrated the Council’s agreement on the importance of preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty, national unity, territorial integrity and political independence. However, there remain strong divisions, particularly between the P5 members, on how to characterise the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon, Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict, Syria’s role in cross-border attacks and Israeli airstrikes on Syrian weapons depots.

Such divisions may also be reflected in a desire by Council members, particularly the P3, to manage the spillover effects from the Syrian crisis by using a mechanism outside the Council, as demonstrated by the formation of an “International Support Group” for Lebanon.

France is the penholder on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
29 August 2013 S/RES/2115 This resolution renewed the mandate of UNIFIL for an additional year.
2 September 2004 S/RES/1559 This resolution urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory, and free and fair presidential elections.
Security Council Presidential Statements
10 July 2013 S/PRST/2013/9 This presidential statement expressed growing concern regarding the spillover effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s political, security and humanitarian situations.
Security Council Press Statements
23 August 2013 SC/11101 This press statement condemned the terrorist attacks in Tripoli.
15 August 2013 SC/11095 This press statement condemned the attack that occurred in South Beirut.
9 July 2013 SC/11055 Condemned the 9 July terrorist attack in Beirut.
Secretary-General’s Reports
26 June 2013 S/2013/381 Was the report on resolution 1701 covering the period March-June 2013.
18 April 2013 S/2013/234 This was a report on resolution 1559.