Resolution 1701:  Diplomatic cover for a climb-down


Resolution 1701 [1], calling for “a full cessation of hostilities” in Lebanon, was passed unanimously by the Security Council on 11 August 2006, and the cessation finally occurred early on the morning of 14 August 2006.


The cessation was not brought about by the passing of resolution 1701.  It was brought about by the US telling Israel to stop, because the Israeli assault on Lebanon had become counterproductive – it was not succeeding in degrading Hezbollah’s military capacity significantly and the prestige of Hezbollah and its allies, Syria and Iran, was rocketing in the Arab and Muslim world.


So the US told Israel to call off its assault.  Resolution 1701 is the diplomatic cover for their climb-down.  It is about giving the impression that something has been achieved by Israel’s military action, that the status quo ante is not being re-established.  However, try as they might, they cannot obscure the fundamental military reality that, after 34 days of pounding by Israel, Hezbollah is still an effective military force.


Immediate ceasefire

The Security Council normally reacts to an outbreak of hostilities anywhere in the world by calling for an immediate ceasefire and the restoration of the status quo ante.  Such a resolution may or may not have any impact on the hostilities, but it is the usual thing to do.  However, in this instance, the US, backed by the UK, blocked the passage of such a resolution, as only veto-wielding powers can do.  They did so because they were fully in support of the Israeli assault on Lebanon.


Instead, to buy Israel time to proceed with its assault, the US proposed that the UN Secretary General send a mission to the Middle East, which took about 10 days to complete.  The US continued to block a ceasefire resolution until early August when it decided that Israel’s assault was counterproductive, and at this point a Security Council resolution became necessary to provide diplomatic cover for their climb-down.  Resolution 1701 is the result.


A full cessation of hostilities

Famously, in Paragraph 1, resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities” but then says that the “full” doesn’t apply to Israel.  The paragraph as a whole reads:


“[The Security Council] Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;”


The paragraph is illogical – how can there be “a full cessation of hostilities” if one side is not required to cease “all” military operations, but only “offensive” military operations?  And this is supposed to be “international law”!


In any case, to ask Israel to cease “offensive” operations is hilarious, since throughout its history it has never admitted to engaging in any “offensive” military operations.  All its actions, including the laying waste of Lebanon in 2006, are said to have been undertaken in self-defence, so what operations is it supposed to cease?


What US says goes

In reality, what matters is not what resolution 1701 says, but what the US says.  If the US has told Israel to cease all military operations, then it will cease all military operations.  Neither the text of resolution 1701, nor the presence of UN “peace keeping” troops in southern Lebanon, is going to restrain Israel from engaging in military operations, if the US has given it license to do so.


Media talk about the ceasefire being under threat because of a failure of France and other states to supply troops to enhance UNIFIL is a load of codswallop.  Even with the maximum complement of 15,000 troops specified in the resolution (Paragraph 11), UNIFIL will not be in a position to prevent Israel attacking any corner of Lebanon if it has been given license to do so.


It will be stationed in southern Lebanon, so how can it possibly prevent Israel bombing Beirut or any other part of the country?  That would require air defence systems stationed all over the country.  It won’t even be equipped to repel an Israeli ground invasion – Hezbollah would have to be called into action again to do that.


It’s doubtful if it is capable of stopping Hezbollah mounting attacks across the border into Israel or firing rockets into Israel, if it has a mind to do so (which is highly unlikely in present circumstances), since no less a person than the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said on 15 August 2006 [2] that there was no expectation that UNIFIL was going to disarm Hezbollah.


UNIFIL - an interim force

UNIFIL - United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon - was originally created by Security Council resolution 425 [3], passed on 19 March 1978, after Israel invaded Lebanon.  Resolution 425 called


“upon Israel immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory” (Paragraph 2).


22 years later, in May 2000, Israel finally obeyed the call, more or less (though it still occupies Sheba’a Farms - Paragraph 10 of resolution 1701 asks Kofi Annan to make proposals about resolving this issue).  Paragraph 3 of the resolution established a UN force “for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces”, in other words, they were just observers, to be stationed in southern Lebanon.


Over 28 years later, the force is still in southern Lebanon.  Its initial deployment was for 6 months, but every 6 months since then the Security Council has passed a resolution to extend its mandate by another 6 months.  About 250 UNIFIL personnel have been killed in the course of their duties, the vast majority as a result of Israeli military action, including 4 on 25 July 2006.


Biased towards Israel

The text of resolution 1701 is a dog’s breakfast, bearing the marks of repeated amendment. Its meaning is opaque, particularly with regard to the duties of the enhanced UNIFIL and the degree of force it is authorised to use, and under what circumstances it can use it.


It is overwhelmingly biased towards Israel.  Despite the fact that Israeli military action has killed over 1000 people in Lebanon and injured thousands more, and caused a quarter of the population to flee, there isn’t a scintilla of criticism of Israel in the resolution, let alone a demand that it make reparations.


It was accepted by the Arab states including Lebanon with great reluctance in order to save further bloodshed, as Sheikh Al-Thani, the Qatari Ambassador to the UN, made abundantly clear in his statement to the Council before the resolution was voted on [4]:


The draft resolution does not clearly and explicitly address the horrors of destruction caused by the Israeli aggression against innocent civilians and the Lebanese infrastructure. Moreover, it does not clearly spell out Israel’s legal and humanitarian responsibility for that destruction or address in a balanced manner the question of the Lebanese prisoners, detainees and abducted persons in Israeli prisons, despite the fact that the exchange of prisoners and detainees is the logical and realistic way to settle this question.


“Nevertheless, we have accepted the draft resolution in its present form in order to stop the bloodshed of innocents and to spare Lebanon and the region further horror and destruction.”


See also Tarek Mitri’s uncompromising remarks on behalf of Lebanon on the same occasion [4].


In a resolution with 19 operative paragraphs, action is required of Israel in only three of them: Paragraph 1 that calls for it to cease all “offensive” action; Paragraph 2 that calls for it “to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon”, as the deployment of Lebanese armed forces and UNIFIL “throughout the South … begins”; and Paragraph 8 that requests the “provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of landmines in Lebanon in Israel’s possession”.


Strangely, resolution 1701 doesn’t specifically call for the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah, which Israel claimed was the objective of its war.  It is true that the resolution’s preamble does emphasise “the need to address urgently … the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers” and, separately, encourages “the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel”.  That these are separate is a reflection of Israel’s unwillingness to acknowledge publicly that they will be solved together.


Contrary to UN Charter

Resolution 1701 should never have been passed by the Security Council, because it is contrary to the UN Charter in two important respects:


(1)  It purports to authorise the enhanced UNIFIL to use force, which can only be done under Article 42 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, but it is not expressed to be a Chapter VII resolution.


(2)  Many aspects of it constitute interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, contrary to Article 2.7 of the UN Charter, which says: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter …”


In a sense, none of this matters since in practice, like most Security Council resolutions, resolution 1701 will mean what the great powers, especially the US/UK, want it to mean.  But, the UN Charter is supposed to enshrine the principles governing relations between states in this world, and the procedures to be followed by the Security Council in addressing problems between states.  That the principles and procedures have been set aside in order to cobble together a cloak for Israel to abandon its aggression against Lebanon shows how seriously the UN Charter is taken in practice.


But then Article 2.4 of the UN Charter says:


“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state …”


Is there a day goes by without the US and/or Israel threatening to use force against a fellow member of the UN?  Of late, Iran and Syria have been in the frame.  Before that it was Iraq, and before that Afghanistan, and before that it was Yugoslavia


Not Chapter VII

Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter are meant to deal with “the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” to quote from the first Article of Chapter VII (Article 39).  The Security Council may make recommendations under Article 40 to remedy the situation, and, if necessary, enforce these recommendations by imposing economic sanctions under Article 41, or, failing that, by authorising the use of “all necessary means”, that is, military action, under Article 42.


A Security Council resolution is normally expressed to be a Chapter VII resolution, by including within it the clause:


Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, …”


after the inevitable preamble.  You will find this in, for example, resolution 678 [5], passed in November 1990 to authorise the use of force to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  But you will not find it in resolution 1701, even though in Paragraph 12 it authorises UNIFIL to use force:


“Acting in support of a request from the Government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, [the Security Council] authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action [my emphasis] in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;”


The phrase “all necessary action” means force.


In the drawing up of the resolution, there was obviously a lot of argument between the parties concerned.  The Arab states didn’t want a Chapter VII resolution that unambiguously mandated UNIFIL to use force, lest it be used to attempt to disarm Hezbollah presumably.  Before the resolution was voted on, Sheikh Al-Thani, the Qatari Ambassador to the UN told the Security Council [4]:


“We welcome the fact that the draft resolution is limited to augmenting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), that its mandate will continue to be subject to the provisions of Chapter VI of the Charter, …”


In which case, it shouldn’t have authorised the use of force.


UNIFIL duties

The duties of the enhanced UNIFIL are set out in Paragraph 11 of resolution 1701.  These are its original observer role under resolutions 425 and 426, plus:


(a) Monitor the cessation of hostilities;


(b) Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon as provided in paragraph 2;


(c) Coordinate its activities related to paragraph 11 (b) with the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel;


(d) Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;


(e) Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;


(f) Assist the Government of Lebanon, at its request, to implement paragraph 14;


Of these, only (e), and to a lesser extent (f), is controversial.  (a) is essentially the original UNIFIL role; (b) and (c) assigns UNIFIL a carer role in respect of the Lebanese armed forces in south Lebanon, which is unnecessary but harmless; (d) has a humanitarian purpose, which may turn out to be UNIFIL’s main role (since, thanks to Israel, there’s plenty of humanitarian work to be done), in addition to the observer duties it has always performed.


The area referred to in (e) is the buffer zone defined in Paragraph 8, which “calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements”.  One of these “principles and elements” is:


“security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;”


This is aimed at creating a buffer zone from the Israeli border to the Litani river free from Hezbollah military personnel, assets and weapons.  But, on 15 August 2006 Condoleezza Rice ruled out UNIFIL disarming Hezbollah [2], and Kofi Annan’s spokesman, Edward Mortimer, repeated this on 26 August 2006, saying [6]:


"Everybody understands that the disarmament of Hezbollah as a whole is not going to be done by force.”


So, precisely how UNIFIL is going to help the Lebanese Army to create this buffer zone is a mystery.  Since the Lebanese Army is not going to disarm Hezbollah either, it is a mystery how this buffer zone is going to be created.


(The text could be interpreted as giving UNIFIL licence to take military action to expel Israeli forces back over the Blue Line, if they cross it into Lebanon, but don’t hold your breath.)


(f) is concerned with assisting the Lebanese Government


“to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11 to assist the Government of Lebanon at its request”


in accordance with Paragraph 14.  But, as (f) states, this is at the request of the Lebanese Government, so UNIFIL may have no role here either.


Are 15,000 troops necessary?

President Chirac had a point when he questioned whether the enhanced UNIFIL needed anywhere near 15,000 troops.  The question is: does UNIFIL need to be enhanced at all?  The answer is YES – otherwise it will look as if the status quo ante is being re-established.


Remember that the original suggestion for a UN force in southern Lebanon came from Prime Minister Blair at the G8 on 16 July 2006.  Then, it was to be a separate force, not an enhancement to UNIFIL.  It was always a force looking for a role, but despite this somebody put a figure of 15,000 on the maximum number of troops required.


Blair’s proposal was part of the delaying tactics engineered by the US/UK to avoid an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, in order to give Israel time to destroy Hezbollah (they hoped).  When that failed, and a climb-down became necessary, it was imperative to give the impression that the status quo ante was not being established – so UNIFIL had to be enhanced from its original 2,000, whether or not its duties warranted it, and a great fuss had to be made about getting loads of troops into south Lebanon.


(To add to the fun in London and Washington, when France hesitated about providing troops for no purpose, they were able to engage in their usual game of belittling France.)


Interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon

That Syria and Iran cease interfering in the internal affairs of Lebanon has been a constant refrain from US/UK in the past couple of years – while they interfered constantly themselves.


The chief instrument for this interference has been Security Council resolution 1559, passed on 2 September 2004.  The two key paragraphs of it are:


[The Security Council]

2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;

3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;


Paragraph 2 was aimed at Syrian forces in Lebanon (which were hastily withdrawn after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, for which the West blamed Syria).  Paragraph 3 was aimed primarily at Hezbollah’s military wing.


President Chirac began the process that led to the passing of 1559, out of personal friendship with Rafik Hariri.  Chirac approached President Bush at the G8 summit at Sea Island, South Carolina, in June 2004 and proposed a Security Council resolution demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.  The US added the part about disbanding and disarming militias.


The resolution, proposed jointly by the US and France, barely got through the Security Council.  It was opposed by the Lebanese Government on the grounds that it was an unwarranted interference in Lebanon’s domestic affairs, contrary to Article 2.7 of the UN Charter, which it obviously is.  It received the bare minimum of 9 votes required by Article 27.3 of the UN Charter.  In addition to the proposers, four other European states – UK, Germany, Spain and Romania – voted for it plus Angola, Benin and Chile, but the other 6 Council members at the time – Russia and China plus Algeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Brazil – abstained, all of them (bar Russia) agreeing with Lebanon that the matters it addressed were outside the competence of the Security Council.


(Had Article 27.3 been applied as the authors of the UN Charter intended, resolution 1559 would not have been deemed passed.  According to Article 27.3, a resolution must have “the concurring votes of the permanent members” in order to pass, in other words, all five permanent members must vote for a resolution, if it is to pass.  When the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council in the early 50s, absence was interpreted as concurrence, and, from then on, as long as a resolution received at least 9 votes, with no permanent member voting against, that is, vetoing it, a resolution has been deemed passed.  Many, perhaps most, Security Council resolutions have been deemed passed, despite the fact they never received “the concurring votes of the permanent members”, as required by Article 27.3. ) 


The essence of 1701 is that 1559 must be fully implemented, for example, Paragraph 3 says:


“[The Security Council] Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon;”


All this is an internal matter for the Lebanese Government and people.  It is true that Hezbollah’s military wing is not under the control of the Lebanese Government, because of the way it developed as a Shiite resistance movement against Israeli occupation.  This is an anomaly, but it is an anomaly for the Government and people of Lebanon to sort out, or leave as it is, as they see fit.


Having said that, it is worth noting that resolution 1701 doesn’t specifically require Hezbollah to disarm and, if Hezbollah were to become a Lebanese state force, the requirements of resolution 1701 would be fulfilled without it giving up any weapons, and, subject to the approval of the Lebanese Government, it could then replenish its weapons from Iran or anywhere else, without infringing 1701.


Israel was enforcing 1559

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, addressed the Security Council before the vote was taken on resolution 1701 in the following terms [4]:


“It is often said, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But recent years have demonstrated that where there is a way, there is not always a will. The way to avoid the crisis between Israel and Lebanon has been clear: implementation of the unconditional obligations set out in resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), which set out issues for resolution between Lebanon and Syria. The clear path forward required the disarming and disbanding of Hizbollah and other militias, and the exercise by Lebanon, like any sovereign State, of control and authority over all its territory. But the will to implement this way has been lacking, and over the past month the peoples of Israel and Lebanon have paid a heavy price for that inaction.


“In the face of the failure to ensure that the obligations set out in those resolutions were implemented, Israel has had no choice but to do what Lebanon has failed to do. As a result, Hizbollah’s lethal capabilities have been dealt a major blow: bases have been dismantled and stockpiles of Iranian missiles have been destroyed. Southern Lebanon has been substantially cleared of the infrastructure of terrorism, and the terrorists and their sponsors have learned that a campaign of brutal terrorism will meet with the forceful response it deserves.”


Hezbollah’s lethal capacities were so severely damaged that it managed to kill 33 Israeli troops after Gillerman made these remarks, nearly 30% of Israeli military casualties overall, and on 13 August 2006 it managed to fire more rockets into Israel than on any other day of the hostilities.


Leaving that aside, it is touching to observe Israel’s new found enthusiasm for the implementation of Security Council resolutions, enthusiasm so great that it is prepared to make war for a month in order to (fail to) enforce just one.  Can we now expect Israel to implement Security Council 252 (passed on 21 May 1968) and unannex East Jerusalem?  Or 446 (passed on 22 March 1979) and dismantle all of its settlements in the Occupied Territories?  Or 497 (passed on 17 December 1981) and unannex the Golan Heights?


Non-binding recommendations

When, prior to the invasion of Iraq, it was pointed out that Israel was in breach of more Security Council resolutions than Iraq, the answer from Israel (and from the British Government) had two strands to it:


(1)  That Iraq was in breach of numerous Chapter VII resolutions, which are mandatory, whereas Israel was in breach of Chapter VI resolutions, which are merely non-binding recommendations.


(2)  That the resolutions outstanding against Israel required action by states other than Israel, and therefore a process of negotiation with other states was necessary to effect their implementation.


The latter might be said to be true about resolution 242 (in which Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories is conditional upon other parties recognising it), but it is obviously not true in respect of the resolutions mentioned above (and about 30 others) that are outstanding against Israel.  Nevertheless, Israel pretends otherwise, and is never challenged about it.


Answering charges of a double standard as regards Iraq and Israel in the Security Council, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Lancry, put it this way on 17 October 2002 [7]:


Israel feels compelled to take the floor in the light of the numerous charges, made in the course of this debate, that the Security Council has adopted a double standard with regard to Israel’s compliance with Council resolutions.


“In fact, those statements are the strongest proof that there is indeed a double standard: one directed against Israel. What else could explain such a deliberate blindness to the fundamental differences between Iraq’s defiance of the Council and Israel’s commitment to a peaceful settlement of conflict with its neighbours? What else could explain the failure to see any distinction between binding resolutions, adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter – resolutions that set out specific actions to be taken by Iraq, independent of the actions of any other party – and interdependent recommendations or statements of principle, adopted under Chapter VI, that are designed to move all the parties forward in the Middle East?


So, Chapter VI resolutions are mere “recommendations” by the Security Council that can be ignored at will by any state that is subject to one, as Israel has done in respect of dozens.


Resolution 1559 is a Chapter VI resolution.  By the principle invoked by Israel, it is mere recommendation by the Security Council that Lebanon was and is free to ignore.


Yet, according to Dan Gillerman, Israel laid waste to Lebanon for a month in order to enforce it.



David Morrison

28 August 2006

Labour & Trade Union Review