October 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2016
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members expect to receive the semi-annual briefing 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.

Key Recent Developments

Lebanon continues to face challenges to its stability and security, both internally and along its borders with Syria, including from extremist groups and arms smugglers. The activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias along the border continue to pose a threat to the stability of the region.

Notwithstanding the Lebanese government’s policy of staying out of the Syrian civil war, Lebanese militants continue to engage in the conflict there in contravention of resolution 1559, and Hezbollah’s involvement continues to have domestic and regional repercussions for Lebanon.

In a 16 August letter to the Council, Israel expressed deep concern about information regarding “the direct involvement of Hezbollah in developing terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza”. The letter claimed that several Palestinian suspects indicted for involvement in terror attacks in Israel had revealed that the terror plots were initiated, funded and carried out under direct instructions from Hezbollah. Israel claims that Hezbollah pursues such recruits through the use of social media, through operatives in Lebanon, and through activities of local agents in the West Bank and Gaza. The letter called on the Security Council to formally designate Hezbollah as a terror organisation.

On 2 September, a Lebanese military court magistrate indicted and issued arrest warrants for two Syrian intelligence officers in connection with the twin bombing of mosques in Tripoli in 2013 in which more than 40 people were killed and hundreds injured. The indictment accused the officers of planning and overseeing the attacks.

Lebanon continues to struggle to maintain domestic security. On 31 August, a bomb blast on a road in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley killed at least one person and wounded 11 others, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. On 9 September, several missiles were reportedly fired from the Syrian province of Homs into Lebanon’s ‘Akkar District. No party claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, Lebanon continues to struggle with the burden of hosting more than one million Syrian refugees. Addressing a high-level plenary meeting about large movements of refugees and migrants at the beginning of the 71st annual UN General Assembly on 19 September, Prime Minister Tammam Salam referred to the situation as an existential challenge and warned that Lebanon runs the risk of a serious collapse. He appealed to the UN to urgently put into motion a plan that would involve drafting, within three months, detailed arrangements for the safe return of Syrians from Lebanon to Syria when circumstances permit, and establishing burden-sharing quotas for countries in the region.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is still unable to elect a president to fill the vacancy left by Michel Sleiman, whose term ended on 24 May 2014. On 22 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement stressing that the election of a president, the formation of a unity government and the election of a parliament by May 2017 are critical to Lebanon’s stability and ability to withstand regional challenges. The statement encouraged regional partners to engage constructively in resolving the presidential vacancy and preventing the spillover of regional crises into Lebanon.

On 15 September, the ambassadors of France, China, Russia, the UK and the US and UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag met with Prime Minister Salam and reaffirmed their strong support for the continued stability and security of Lebanon. They commended the prime minister’s efforts to govern under increasingly difficult circumstances and conveyed their ongoing support for his work. They called on all Lebanese parties to work responsibly in the national interest, to enable government institutions to function effectively, and to ensure that key decisions are taken at a time when Lebanon is facing mounting security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges. Recalling the July presidential statement, they expressed their deepening concern over the twenty-seven-month vacancy in the presidency and discussed with Salam the question of the legislative elections to be held by May 2017. They said they welcomed the intent of the government of Lebanon to take steps to ensure that the elections are held on time.

On 30 August, the Council adopted resolution 2305, which renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year without any major changes and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNIFIL by February 2017. Negotiations on the resolution’s text, drafted by France, were straightforward. A few Council members sought the addition of information on the scope and objectives of the strategic review, expressing concern that the review ought not to distract the mission from its tasks. However, the final text did not specify the scope of the review.

Key Issues

The main 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, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

The ongoing crisis in Syria, with Hezbollah’s involvement on the side of the regime, remains a major concern for several reasons, including the flow of arms through Syria to Hezbollah. These circumstances have had a negative effect on Lebanon and continue to stall efforts to fully implement resolution 1559. Lebanon’s burden in hosting more than one million refugees from Syria is also of deep concern.

Another issue is the continuing threat of a resumption of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.

Lebanon’s inability to elect a president—which has paralysed the country’s parliament, rendering it incapable of passing critical legislation and impairing Lebanon’s ability to address its growing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges—is of utmost concern.

Options

Considering that the Council adopted a comprehensive presidential statement on 22 July outlining the main issues on which they stand united in their support of Lebanon, the most likely option is to merely receive the briefing and take no other action at this time.

Council Dynamics

The Council continues to demonstrate unity in its 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. The Council has been united in repeatedly calling on all Lebanese parties to recommit to Lebanon’s policy of dissociation and to cease any involvement in the Syrian crisis, while voicing concern about the vacancy in the presidency.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LEBANON

Security Council Resolutions
30 August 2016 S/RES/2305 This was a resolution which renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNIFIL by February 2017.
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
22 July 2016 S/PRST/2016/10 This was a presidential statement that stressed the importance of Lebanon’s electing a president by May 2017 in order to maintain stability.
Secretary-General’s Reports
22 April 2016 S/2016/366 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1559.
Security Council Letters
16 August 2016 S/2016/717 This was from Israel, accusing Hezbollah of developing a terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza.