July 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2022
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

On 21 July, Security Council members expect to receive a briefing in consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701. Adopted in 2006, resolution 1701 called for a cessation of hostilities between the Shi’a group Hezbollah and Israel. Briefings are expected from Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

Key recent developments

On 15 May, parliamentary elections were held in Lebanon with nearly half of the registered voters participating. A significant development was that Hezbollah and its block lost the parliamentary majority they had held since the 2018 elections. No group won a majority of seats. Another development was the election of a notable number of candidates considered to be in opposition to the establishment (13, according to Lebanese news outlet L’Orient-Le Jour). Overall, eight women were elected to the 128-seat body, the highest number to date in Lebanon.

Several electoral observation bodies reported instances of violations, including disputes and altercations in electoral centres, intimidation and vote buying practices, as well as a lack of accessibility for elderly voters and people with disabilities. According to a preliminary statement of the EU Election Observation Mission, although the electoral campaign was “vibrant” and the atmosphere was mostly calm, vote buying and clientelism “distorted the level playing field and seriously affected the voters’ choice”.

On 25 May, Council members issued a press statement welcoming the holding of the elections and calling for the rapid formation of an inclusive government and the urgent implementation of reforms. In what appears to be language resulting from compromise between differing positions, Council members “took note of the findings and recommendations made by observer missions”. The statement also encourages “measures to enhance women’s full, equal and meaningful political participation and representation, including in the new government”.

During its first session on 31 May, the new parliament elected Speaker Nabih Berri to occupy this position for the seventh time, although with fewer votes than in the past. On 23 June, the parliament designated caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati as the new head of government tasked with forming a cabinet; however, any newly formed government will automatically enter caretaker status once the term of President of the Republic Michel Aoun expires in October, leaving only a short window for the Lebanese political leaders to form a government and undertake reforms.

On 7 April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that a preliminary agreement had been reached with the Lebanese authorities to potentially support Lebanon for 46 months with around $3 billion, on the condition that Lebanon implements a series of reforms. In a 26 June statement calling on political actors to form a government, the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon said that the Lebanese authorities “must deliver” on the commitments made to the IMF, “including budget laws, capital control, banking secrecy, banking resolution, government and central bank decisions on banking resolution and exchange rate unification”. (The ISG is composed of the UN, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, and the US, as well as the EU and the Arab League.)

The Lebanese population continues to face the consequences of a severe socioeconomic crisis, with added concerns deriving from the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in particular the availability of wheat.

On 21 June, Lebanon and Egypt signed an agreement for the provision of Egyptian gas to Lebanon through a pipeline running through Jordan and Syria to alleviate Lebanon’s energy crisis.

Indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon on the demarcation of the maritime border restarted in June, facilitated by US Senior Advisor for Global Energy Security Amos Hochstein. The resumption of the talks was prompted by tensions between the two countries following the arrival of a floating production storage and offloading vessel to extract gas for Israel at the Karish natural gas field. Israel says that the Karish field is located in its exclusive economic zone, while Lebanon maintains that the gas field is partly located in a disputed area.

The situation of refugees and displaced people in Lebanon also remains a source of concern. On 20 June, the UN and Lebanese authorities launched the 2022-2023 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. The plan aims to provide assistance to 1.5 million displaced Syrians, more than 209,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria, and 1.5 million people from host communities in Lebanon.

The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations remains volatile. In late April, a rocket was launched from southern Lebanon towards Israel, resulting in retaliatory fire from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). On 17 May, the IDF said it had shot down a drone belonging to Hezbollah, which had crossed into Israel’s territory.

More recently, Israeli media have reported that, according to the IDF, Hezbollah—acting under the guise of an environmental protection organisation—set up around a dozen new intelligence-gathering posts along the Blue Line, a border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon. According to these reports, Israel presented documentation about these new posts to UN staff and representatives of France and the US during a recent meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. The Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, due on 13 July, is likely to provide an update on these and other developments in southern Lebanon, including ongoing issues with the restriction of UNIFIL’s freedom of access and movement.

On 16 June, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) unanimously sentenced Hezbollah-linked Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi to life imprisonment for being accomplices to intentional homicide, among other crimes. Merhi and Oneissi, both tried in absentia, were convicted in March, when the STL reversed on appeal its earlier acquittal of the two men, who remain at large. (The STL, a tribunal composed of Lebanese and international judges, began operating in 2009 to try those accused of carrying out the February 2005 bombing in which former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others were killed.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

A delegation of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited Lebanon from 4 to 10 May. In a 12 May statement, the SPT expressed serious concern at the “persistent problems in the administration of justice, prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowding and deplorable living conditions in many places of deprivation of liberty”. On 26 June, a group of international and national civil society organisations issued a joint statement saying that while Lebanon has “strengthened its anti-torture protections on paper, in practice, torture remains prevalent”. The statement calls on the Lebanese authorities to promptly and impartially investigate all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Women, Peace and Security

At the time of writing, a visit to Lebanon by members of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) was expected to take place from 28 to 30 June. This will be the first time that members of the IEG undertake a country visit.

Key Issues and Options

The lack of implementation of resolution 1701, including through a permanent ceasefire, and the substantial amount of weaponry held by Hezbollah and other non-state actors in Lebanon remain key issues for the Council. In August, Council members will discuss the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate ahead of its expiry on 31 August.

Another key issue for the Council is to provide UNIFIL with the means to carry out its tasks. At the July meeting, Council members may be interested to hear an update from the briefers on the security situation in southern Lebanon.

The potential extension of the temporary and special measures outlined in resolution 2591 in August 2021 is likely to be one of the issues that Council members will consider during the negotiations of UNIFIL’s mandate. Resolution 2591 requested UNIFIL to support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) through temporary and special measures consisting of “non-lethal material (fuel, food and medicine) and logistical support” for a period of six months. This provision was driven by concerns about the impact of the socioeconomic crisis on the LAF’s capacity to adequately carry out its functions in UNIFIL’s area of operations.

In this regard, Council members may be interested in receiving an update from the briefers on the impact of the temporary and special measures on the LAF’s operational capacity. The March Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1701 said that, in light of the LAF’s need for “additional urgent support to increase their capacity to undertake joint operations with UNIFIL”, the extension of these measures could help to address challenges such as the continued impact of the economic crisis on Lebanese security institutions and the risk that “non-State armed groups could exploit any security vacuum”.

Ongoing socioeconomic instability is a further issue. An 11 May report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, found that: “The Lebanese State, including its Central Bank, is responsible for human rights violations, including the unnecessary immiseration of the population, that have resulted from this man-made crisis”. An option could be for Council members to invite De Schutter for a briefing.

An important additional issue for some Council members remains how best to support women’s participation in political and peacebuilding processes in Lebanon. The members of the IEG who participated in the visit to Lebanon may consider sharing their findings from the trip during the 1701 meeting in July and through a publicly available summary letter.

Council Dynamics

There is broad consensus among members in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. Despite this general unity, differences remain. While some members distinguish between Hezbollah’s political and military wings and have designated only its military wing as a terrorist organisation, other members, including the UK and the US, have listed the Shi’a group in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. In sharp contrast to the US and the UK, Russia sees Hezbollah as a legitimate sociopolitical force.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LEBANON

Security Council Resolution
11 August 2006S/RES/1701 This resolution expanded UNIFIL by 15,000 troops and expanded its mandate.
Secretary-General’s Report
11 March 2022S/2022/214 This was the most recent Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701.

 

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