July 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2016
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In July, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and a representative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Key Recent Developments

There have been no major incursions in the area of operations of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in recent months; however, the threat of confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah remains. Speaking ahead of the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told reporters in New York on 5 June that with Hezbollah preoccupied by fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, there is unlikely to be conflict with Israel “in the foreseeable future”, adding that he believes the presence of UNIFIL serves as a deterrent for both Israel and Hezbollah.

Israel’s Army Radio reported on 14 June that Israeli officials said the defence establishment similarly does not expect Hezbollah to initiate a new round of fighting, but they cautioned that any individual incident could escalate into open war.

On 28 May, the pro-Hezbollah daily newspaper as-Safir reported that Hezbollah was preparing for its next conflict with Israel by digging terror-attack tunnels, tracking IDF movement and positioning its large arsenal of rockets along the northern border with Israel. According to the article, the tunnels include an electricity network and enough food to feed combatants for weeks.

On 12 June, a bomb exploded outside Blom Bank, one of the country’s largest banks, located in a commercial area of Beirut. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced shortly after the blast that the explosion had caused no casualties, though two people were later reported injured. Blom Bank has been criticised by some pro-Hezbollah politicians for taking a hard-line position concerning a US law that imposes sanctions for doing business with the militant group. Authorities say dozens of bank accounts connected to Hezbollah have been closed in recent weeks.

On 13 May, Hezbollah announced the death of Mustafa Badreddine, its most senior military commander in Syria’s war, who was reportedly killed in an explosion in Damascus. Hezbollah’s Al-Mayadeen network initially reported that Badreddine was killed by an Israeli Air Force attack near Damascus’ airport. Later reports, however, did not mention Israeli involvement. For years, Badreddine masterminded military operations against Israel and he was more recently in charge of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria.

Badreddine was being prosecuted in absentia by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for his alleged involvement in organising and carrying out the massive bomb blast in downtown Beirut in 2005 that killed Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The prosecution was not able to obtain Badreddine’s official death certificate from Lebanese authorities and did not have information as to when one might be issued. Prosecutors presented circumstantial evidence of his death to the three-judge trial chamber, which decided that Badreddine would continue to stand trial, pending the STL’s receipt of further information from the government of Lebanon. However, on 22 June the court suspended the proceedings, pending a final decision on whether to terminate the case.

The UN’s Fifth Committee adopted a resolution on 19 May on UNIFIL’s budget. The resolution reiterated the request that Israel compensate the UN for the destruction of a UN compound in an 18 April 1996, attack in Qana, Lebanon. The compound, which was sheltering local residents, was shelled by Israeli forces, killing 106 people and wounding more than 100. The resolution called on Israel to pay $1,117,005 in compensation. A UN report issued in January said the UN Secretariat has transmitted 21 letters to the Permanent Mission of Israel on the subject, the most recent of which was dated 12 January 2016, to which no response has been received.

On 24 May, which marked two years of a vacancy in the Lebanese presidency, members of the Council issued a press statement that underscored their deepest concern over the vacancy and expressed their intention to continue following related developments with a particular sense of urgency.

Key Issues

A central 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 inability of Lebanon to elect a president, which has paralysed the country’s parliament and threatens Lebanon’s stability because of its potential to aggravate sectarian tensions within the country.

Options

Considering that Council members issued a comprehensive press statement in March outlining the main issues on which they stand united in their support of Lebanon, and a press statement in May on the vacancy in the presidency, the most likely option is to merely receive the briefing and take no other action at this time.

Council Dynamics

The Council has been united in its position that UNIFIL contributes to stability between Israel and Lebanon, especially considering the current Syrian crisis. Council consensus includes support for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and security, condemnation of acts of terrorism on Lebanese territory and recognition of the crucial role of the Lebanese Armed Forces in responding to security challenges.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN Documents on Lebanon 

Security Council Resolutions
21 August 2015 S/RES/2236 This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNIFIL for one 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 Press Statement
24 May 2016 SC/12371 This was a press statement that underscored their deepest concern over the vacancy and expressed their intention to continue following related developments with a particular sense of urgency.