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Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members will receive the semi-annual briefing on the latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted in 2004, resolution 1559 called for the disarmament of all militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory. This briefing, usually conducted by the Special Coordinator for Lebanon or an official from the Department of Political Affairs, has always been held in consultations.

The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August 2019.

Key Recent Developments

Five months after parliamentary elections, Lebanon has yet to form a government. In late May, Lebanese President Michel Aoun designated Saad Hariri as the prime minister in charge of forming the government. Hariri’s task has been complicated by a lack of agreement among the major political blocks on their share of cabinet posts in the new government.

According to media reports from early September, Lebanon’s Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, warned that the economic situation in Lebanon is serious, while President Aoun said that such concerns are exaggerated. Aoun acknowledged that there are difficulties facing the Lebanese economy but said that the country is working to address them. Lebanon is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to make fiscal adjustments to address its public debt. Initiating any reforms in this regard would require a functioning government.        

In a televised address to his supporters on 20 September, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that the group has acquired precision-guided missiles despite Israel’s efforts to prevent this. According to some estimates, Hezbollah currently has more than 100,000 missiles that could target Israel. Nasrallah reiterated that Hezbollah fighters would remain in Syria as long as they are needed by the Syrian government.   

On 30 August, the Council adopted resolution 2433, which extended UNIFIL’s mandate for a further year. While negotiations on the resolution were not as contentious as last year, diverging views among Council members on the mission’s role were evident. In the past, the US has publicly criticised UNIFIL for overlooking the alleged upsurge in Hezbollah’s activity and increased flow of weapons into southern Lebanon and demanded that UNIFIL assume a more visible presence in the area. The resolution stressed the need to improve management of UNIFIL civilian resources with the goal of improving the effectiveness of the mission, and requested the Secretary-General to provide his recommendations on the issue by the end of the year. While the mandate of the mission remained unchanged, the resolution called on the government of Lebanon to develop a plan to increase its naval capabilities with the aim of reducing UNIFIL’s Maritime Taskforce and transitioning its responsibilities to the Lebanese Navy.

Newly appointed head of UNIFIL and force commander Major General Stefano Del Col chaired his first tripartite meeting on 6 September. Del Col met with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces to discuss the situation along the Blue Line, the border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon. He commended both parties for their efforts to ease tensions and preserve stability.

On 21 September, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon completed closing arguments in the case involving four individuals charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, which resulted in the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The accused remain at large, and the trial in The Hague is being held in absentia. Saad Hariri was present on the first day of the closing arguments and later told the media that he is confident that those who killed his father would be held to account.      

Key Issues and Options

There are several interrelated issues for the Council, notably the weaponry that Hezbollah and other non-state actors possess and the flow of arms through Syria to Hezbollah, which directly hinder the ability of the Lebanese government to exercise full authority over its territory. The ongoing crisis in Syria, with Hezbollah’s involvement on the side of the Syrian government, has contributed to this flow of arms. These circumstances pose a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability and contravene its obligations under resolutions 1559 and 1701, the latter of which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. The situation also generates concerns about tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border, with the continuing threat of a resumption of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel. 

On the political front, the Council will continue to follow closely the developments related to the formation of the new government in Lebanon. Council members are aware that a protracted period of political instability in Lebanon could have implications for the security situation in the country and the wider region.  

Lebanon’s burden in hosting close to one million refugees from Syria is also of deep concern, and in that regard, the Council could request a briefing by UNHCR on how member states can enhance services to refugees.

Council Dynamics

The Council continues to demonstrate unity in its support of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security and its efforts to insulate itself from the damaging effect of the Syrian conflict. The Council has also recognised the decisive role of the LAF in responding to security challenges.   

The members are divided, however, in their view of the security dynamics in the region and the role of the mission. This was particularly evident during the mandate renewal negotiations both last year and this year. The US has continued to emphasise the threat posed by Iran, Hezbollah, and the proliferation of weapons in southern Lebanon, and has promoted a more active role for UNIFIL in confronting these threats. On the mission’s configuration, the US has strongly advocated for the reduction of UNIFIL’s Maritime Task force, leading towards eventual termination. Most other members, however, share the view that the mission’s mandate and tasks should remain unchanged. These members are cautious of drastic changes in the mission’s mandate and their impact on the fragile calm that has been maintained in southern Lebanon for the past ten years.      

UN Documents on Lebanon

Security Council Resolutions
30 August 2018 S/RES/2433 The Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending UNIFIL’s mandate for another year.
11 August 2006 S/RES/1701 This resolution expanded UNIFIL by 15,000 troops and expanded its mandate.
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.
Secretary-General's Reports
13 July 2018 S/2018/703 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701.
Security Council Meeting Records
30 August 2018 S/PV.8338 The Council adopted resolution 2433 extending UNIFIL’s mandate for another year.

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