October 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 October 2015
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members expect to receive the semi-annual briefing from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on the latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted in 2004, resolution 1559 urged the disarmament of all militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory. In addition to issues related to the implementation of resolution 1559, the discussion is expected to focus on the political situation in Lebanon and the immense impact of the Syrian crisis on the country.

Key Recent Developments

Notwithstanding Lebanon’s official position of disassociation from the Syrian conflict, Lebanese militants continue to engage in the conflict, in violation of resolution 1559.

Hezbollah has been involved alongside the Syrian army in heavy fighting against rebel groups in the Qalamoun region in southwest Syria, particularly around the rebel-controlled towns of Zabadani and Madaya. Zabadani is positioned on a strategically important corridor between Damascus and Lebanon. On 20 September, a ceasefire was agreed in Zabadani and Madaya, as well as Fouaa and Kafraya, two of the last government-controlled villages in Idlib province, in northern Syria. According to the Lebanese media, Hezbollah announced plans to end its offensive operations in Syria after it secures control of Zabadani.     

In late August, rival armed Palestinian groups engaged in intense fighting in Ain al-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Armed groups led by the Fatah party on one side and the radical Islamist Jund al-Sham group on the other clashed for several days, leaving six people dead, dozens injured and several thousand displaced. The situation in the camp remains tense, and sporadic clashes continue despite a ceasefire reached on 26 August.  

The ongoing political crisis—including the vacancy of the presidency for more than a year now—continues to hinder the ability of the government to respond to the numerous challenges it now faces. On 23 and 24 August, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Beirut in “You Stink” demonstrations, highlighting the government’s inability to resolve the garbage-disposal crisis. Close to 100 members of the security forces and around 60 demonstrators were injured and one died during violent protests in Beirut.

Following the 24 August clashes, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag urged restraint and called on Lebanese leaders to be politically accountable and respond to the needs of its citizens. Kaag briefed Council members on 2 September under “any other business”. Following the meeting, Council members issued press elements reiterating their unity in support of “the sovereignty, stability and independence of Lebanon and its people”, while urging the parliament to elect a president as soon as possible. That same day, the Lebanese parliament failed in its 28th attempt to elect a president, further deepening the political crisis. The presidency has been vacant since May 2014. 

The “You Stink” protests continued throughout September and broadened to include calls for an end to corruption and sectarianism. On 10 September, the government adopted an action plan to resolve the garbage crisis. The protesters, however, rejected the plan, calling it vague and insufficient. Demonstrations in Beirut continued, with renewed clashes with the police on 21 September, when protesters called for parliament members to resign. The current parliament was elected in 2009, and it has extended its mandate on two occasions, citing security concerns.

On 15 August, Lebanese authorities arrested radical Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir, who has been a fugitive since 2013. Assir was responsible for stirring up sectarian tensions in Lebanon, especially after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis and the subsequent involvement of Hezbollah in Syria. Assir is alleged to have incited scores of radical Lebanese Sunnis to fight against Hezbollah in Syria. In 2013, Assir’s followers attacked a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Sidon, killing 17 and injuring more than 30 soldiers. Since this incident, Assir has been on the run, but he was finally arrested in the Beirut airport, trying to leave the country with falsified travel documents.          

On 18 September, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon dismissed charges of obstructing justice against local TV network Al-Jadeed. However, the Tribunal convicted the network’s deputy director, Karma Khayat, of obstructing a court order to remove confidential information about the witnesses from the network’s website. The jurisdiction of the Tribunal extends to attacks that occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 in connection with the 14 February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Five Hezbollah members have been indicted and tried in absentia for the Hariri assassination in 2005.

Key Issues

The ongoing crisis in Syria and Hezbollah’s involvement on the side of the regime remains the overarching issue. These circumstances have had a negative effect on Lebanon and continue to stall efforts to fully implement resolution 1559.

A related issue is that Hezbollah and other non-state actors continue to maintain weaponry that directly hinders the government’s exercise of full authority over its territory, poses a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability and contravenes its obligations under resolutions 1559 and 1701.

Another issue is the threat to the political stability of Lebanon posed by the current anti-government protests, together with the inability of Lebanon to elect a president, which has in turn paralysed the country’s parliament.

Options

Considering that earlier this year the Council issued a comprehensive presidential statement outlining the main issues on which the Council stands united in its support of Lebanon, reiterated by press elements issued on 2 September, a likely option for the Council is to receive a briefing and take no further action.

In view of the deterioration of the political situation in the country due to anti-government protests and the paralysis of the parliament on the issue of electing a president, the Council could consider issuing a statement encouraging the political actors in Lebanon to elect a president and address the concerns of its citizens.    

Council Dynamics

The Council continues to demonstrate unity in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security and to support Lebanon in its efforts to insulate itself from the damaging effect of the Syrian conflict.     

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN Documents 

Security Council Resolution
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 Statement
19 March 2015 S/PRST/2015/7 This presidential statement addressed several issues, including the situation along the Blue Line; the vacancy in the presidential office; and the effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, including the challenges posed by hosting nearly 1.2 million refugees, and it expressed support for the LAF, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Support Group for Lebanon.
Secretary-General’s Report
16 April 2015 S/2015/258 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1559.