UN Resolution 1559 in Perspective
The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 on September 2, 2004 calling for the end of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon. Syria was asked to withdraw all its military troops, to pull out its secret services and to stop interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs. The resolution also called for the disbanding of all militias, both Lebanese and Palestinian.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 9 in favor (Angola, Benin, Chile, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, United States) to none against, with 6 abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, China, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation). France and the United States sponsored the resolution.
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, Syria made few moves to comply with UN Resolution 1559.
In March 2005, President Bashar al-Assad announced that the place of Syrian troops is on the territory of their own country. On April 26, 2005 after 29 years of military presence in Lebanon, the last Syrian troops left Lebanon.
The text of resolution 1559 (2004) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, resolution 520 (1982) of 17 September 1982, and resolution 1553 (2004) of 29 July 2004 as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),
“Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally territorially recognized borders,
“Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,
“Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,
“Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory,
“Mindful of the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections and underlining the importance of free and fair elections according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence,
“1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;
“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;
“4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;
“5. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;
“6. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;
“7. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”
Some say that the US, France and Israel are the biggest winners through this resolution: Israel because Hezbollah is a military threat, beside the Palestinian militias formed inside the refugees’ camps, and it is in its interest to have a weak Lebanon as its neighbor; the United States, because Syria is among the last Arab countries that dares to defy the American policy in the region. Through Hezbollah, Syria is also targeted being known that both Syria and Iran are financially and logistically supporting the Lebanese Party of God. Tehran is said to send Hezbollah $20 million a month, money the organization invests in weaponry for its militia and spends on its social programs fated mostly for the Shiia community.
The ones who favor the theory, “everyone wins, except Lebanon” should rethink their position. It seems odd that those who reject the UN resolution do not realize that 1559 is actually the Taef Accord. UN Resolution 1559 would not have been a plan backed by the US, France and Germany if Lebanon had worked on its own to liberate the country from Syrian occupation. The slogans spread by Hezbollah’s leadership, by Walid Jumblatt and others that they do not support UN 1559 but do support the Taef Accord are just a waste of time and a sign of irresponsibility. The international community issued the resolution in accordance with international law and Lebanon has to decide whether it is a part of this community or not.
UN Resolution 1559 primarily asks that the Lebanese government regain its authority over all Lebanese territory. Regardless of the reasons behind US or French intervention in Lebanon’s case, it was a severe breach of international law having a foreign army stationed and acting in Lebanon as if Lebanon was its own and when a party nearly has a state of its own in the south of the country.
While few would ignore Hezbollah’s role to protect the south of Lebanon during the civil war clashes with Israel, nowadays the situation is different. If in the 1970s and the late 1980s Hezbollah fought for the land and the integrity of Lebanon, now the party uses the weapons and the influence it has first and foremost in its own interest. Hezbollah prefers is to keep the present status of an independent mini-state within the Lebanese state.
On numerous occasions, Hezbollah’s leadership said that it might disarm if and when Lebanon felt secure with Israel at its borders. There are two options its leadership can apply:
- Maintain the status quo of war and continue fighting until one eliminates the other; in this case no one can guarantee who wins. This alternative is the worst scenario because it would cause great damage on both sides. It would permanently diminish the chance of creating a Palestinian state. It also might very well drag Syria and Iran into the conflict and it would put Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan in the situation of having to choose sides.
- The second alternative is to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Peace would eliminate the military threats from Hezbollah towards Israel, and from Israel toward Lebanon.
The party’s supporters claim that for Hezbollah to voluntarily disarm requires first of all a stabilized political situation, a proper government and a representative parliament that will secure fairness and equality among Lebanese.
Hezbollah’s weapons came into being because the people of southern Lebanon and exclusively the underdeveloped and politically neglected Shiias were left helpless by the Lebanese government first against Arafat and the PLO, and secondly against the Israelis. When the government invests in the south of Lebanon, there will be no need for Hezbollah. To this day, the Lebanese government left the south in Hezbollah’s and Amal’s care. This is one of the reasons why Lebanon is in reality a quasi-federal state with each faction having its own territory and agenda. The danger is that the ambition of a faction does not always coincide with that of the state.
On the other hand, Hezbollah’s resistance is based on the popularity it enjoys in Lebanon. If it waged a war against the rest of Lebanon, the party would lose its popularity and place as a benefactor to the Shiias.
The ones who reject Hezbollah’s label as a resistance say that if the party would be further allowed to carry arms this would endanger the stability of the country, thus the security of each individual and person in Lebanon. If Hezbollah keeps its arms and decides that the only way to deal with Israel is by eliminating it physically, then it will prove to be nothing more than a terrorist organization that fundamentally rejects the concept of peace as an option and would attack with the intent to destroy human life.
However in a sovereign, independent state of law, Hezbollah should voluntarily disarm and let the Lebanese army carry on its duty to protect Lebanon's borders. Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and Nabih Berri among others said that whether or not Hezbollah should be disarmed is an internal matter and that the appropriate decisions should be taken by the Lebanese authorities together with Hezbollah’s leadership. Maybe a good idea would be to approach the population and organize a national referendum. Let the Lebanese decide for themselves the state they want to live in: One guarded by private militias, or one guarded by the authorities in the spirit of law.
Hezbollah has not formulated a clear and objective statement regarding its strong desire to keep its arms. At one point, Hezbollah said it would disarm once the Shebaa Farms were no longer occupied. On another occasion, they said that if Israel withdraws from the Shebaa Farms they would merely take the disarmament option into consideration, but definitely not apply it right away, or perhaps not at all for that matter.
Why keep Lebanon hostage to its past of active and bloody militias controlling its internal affairs and deeply influencing its external relations? Let Lebanon acknowledge the need to develop itself and to act according to the precepts of law.
Steps to be taken to broaden the discussion with Hezbollah over arms
There must be a discussion involving the decision-making authorities at the highest level. There must be admission that Hezbollah represents a large faction of Lebanese society that has its own grievances and must be addressed in a tactful but not confrontational way.
Discuss why the party is so keen to maintain its weapons. If it’s about the Shebaa farms, then the next problem to be addressed is whether or not the tiny piece of land is or can be internationally recognized as Lebanese. If it cannot be, then the argument doesn’t hold. If it can be demonstrated legally that Shebaa Farms belongs to Lebanon, then the Lebanese government should look at the ways it can get it back. If Hezbollah’s reason to keep its armed wing is to carry on the Palestinians' struggle, then it’s not only an irresponsible act, but also a betrayal of the Lebanese people. Why would the Lebanese carry on with a fight that is not theirs, especially now when the Palestinian leadership itself has chosen the path of negotiation and truce?
Hezbollah must be convinced that holding on to weapons contradicts the very essence of a sovereign Lebanese state - not to mention how the rest of the world perceives it, considering the sectarian strife Lebanon has faced throughout its history. Does Hezbollah’s aim justify endangering civil peace? A mechanism should be established to build goodwill between Hezbollah and the rest of society. For example, the government could implement some plans to develop southern Lebanon administratively, economically, and educationally. Most likely a developed society in southern Lebanon would think twice before hurrying its youth to join Hezbollah’s ranks and endure the associated tragedies, including death.
There is also a psychological dimension to the matter. Hezbollah may think that by surrendering its weapons it would lose its label of being a liberator, a label that brought them success in the first place. Hezbollah may also be concerned that without arms it would enjoy less influence and power within the society.
Another way of convincing Hezbollah to disarm is by approaching Iran and asking for its support. Iran is Hezbollah's major financial donor and the Iranian revolutionary guards participated in building Hezbollah’s armed wing.
If Hezbollah’s goal is to secure Lebanon’s welfare as a whole, then there should be no problem with starting the disarming process in the immediate future. Otherwise, what we will see will not be the "Lebanonization" of Hezbollah, but rather the opposite.