Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Eighth Report

3  Lebanon


84. Lebanon is a country half the size of Wales populated roughly equally by Sunni and Shi'a Muslims and Maronite Christians. Lebanon's current constitution is based on the 1989 Taif agreement that helped bring its bitter civil war to an end. The agreement set out the distribution of power between these three confessional groups: its President, Emile Lahoud is a Maronite, the Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is Sunni, and the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, is a Shi'a.[146] Lebanon shares its borders with Israel and Syria, both of whom have had troops occupying parts of the country in recent years: the former withdrew in 2000;[147] the latter in 2005.[148] The last two years have brought about renewed instability in Lebanon, most controversially marked by the war between Israel and the militant Shi'a organisation Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Stability and security in Lebanon are widely seen as important factors in the success of the Middle East peace process, and the balance of power in Lebanon also impacts on more general regional dynamics. This chapter considers the key issues currently faced by Lebanon, and assesses the role played by the UK and other international actors in what has often been a delicate and complicated political and security situation.

Political Change and Crisis

The Cedar Revolution

85. Rafik Hariri had been Lebanon's Prime Minister for ten of the twelve years leading up to 2004. On 14 February 2005, he was assassinated in Beirut by a massive car-bomb. The repercussions of his death have framed Lebanon's politics ever since. Syria was widely believed to have had a hand in his murder.[149] Following what became known as the 'cedar revolution' of popular protest, the anti-Syrian 'March 14' coalition (led by Mr Hariri's son Saad) won an important victory in Lebanon's Parliamentary elections. The new political climate also forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, as had been demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (2004).[150] On our visit to Lebanon, we heard that Syria's occupying troops had previously allowed Damascus to dominate the politics of Beirut.


86. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1595 on 7 April 2005, establishing the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into the death of Mr Hariri. The UNIIIC reported to the Security Council in October 2005, and stated that based on its findings so far, "there is converging evidence pointing at […] Syrian involvement in this terrorist attack."[151] Based on this evidence, the Security Council immediately demanded that Syria co-operate with all further investigations carried out by the UNIIIC. The UK was one of the three sponsors of this binding Chapter VII resolution.[152] Under Security Council Resolution 1664, the Security Council later asked the UN Secretary-General to work with Lebanon's Government to establish a tribunal to try suspects for Mr Hariri's assassination.[153]

87. When he appeared before the Committee, Dr Howells condemned the "horrendous murder" and told us the reasoning behind the Security Council's involvement on this issue:

The tribunal was set up was because of the difficulty that the Siniora Government and their predecessor Government had in trying to conduct any kind of inquiry into the assassination, the murder, while Syria had such overweening power in Lebanon; to put it mildly, they were obstructive.

At the time, the international community believed that Syria's fingerprints were all over that assassination. We would not want to take any position on that before the tribunal completes its investigations, but it is important that the tribunal should be allowed to complete its investigations.[154]

88. However, the establishment of a tribunal under Resolution 1664 required the agreement of Lebanon's Government. When Resolution 1664 was passed, Lebanon's Government was one of 'national unity'—it was comprised of both the 'March 14' coalition and politicians that belonged to the two dominant Shi'a political parties, Hezbollah and Amal. Dr Peter Gooderham told the Committee that when Lebanon's Government attempted to "bring that agreement to a decision, […] certain members voiced their opposition and withdrew from the Government", precipitating a "crisis".[155] These "certain members" included all the Shi'a ministers, who have strong links with Syria. Dr Howells suspected their motives for withdrawing from the Government, telling the Committee that "Hezbollah is probably implicated in the assassination" and that it decided to do its "best to disrupt that investigation and to ensure that it came to nothing".[156] Nadim Shehadi told the Committee that the Speaker of Parliament (Nabih Berri, who is from the Shi'a Amal party) was "refusing to call for a session of Parliament […] in order to avoid being put in a corner" in which there would be "a vote on the tribunal."[157]

89. When we visited Beirut, we saw the political paralysis that was being caused by the continuing stand-off between the 'March 14' coalition and Hezbollah and its allies, who had brought their supporters out onto the streets. The crisis created by the dispute over the tribunal has raised important questions about the foundations upon which Lebanon's Government is based. Nadim Shehadi outlined the principles behind the system:

The power-sharing agreement has proved to be, in a way, the only system in the region that prevents a takeover of the whole system by a single group. Every single politician in an important position, such as the President, Prime Minister or Speaker of Parliament, has a veto power that can paralyse the whole system […] it is impossible for any group or party to take over completely. The system just locks into paralysis until another consensus is reached.[158]

90. Patrick Seale told the Committee that given that the highest political position a Shi'a could ever reach in Lebanon's current system was Speaker, the current arrangements were in fact a power-sharing arrangement between Maronites and Sunnis. He argued that Lebanon's "institutional arrangements clearly need revision to give the Shi'a a bigger stake in decision making."[159] This is a powerful point when one considers the fact that the Shi'a are roughly equal to Sunnis in population terms.[160]

91. Hezbollah and its allies have been demanding the creation of what is sometimes referred to as a '1/3 +1' Government. Under this system, they would return to Prime Minister Siniora's Government, but with enough Cabinet seats to be able to veto proposals within Cabinet. This solution has been bitterly opposed by the 'March 14' coalition.[161] Dr Howells argued to the Committee that the opposition protest actions were "trying to subvert the democratic process" in Lebanon.[162] At the time of preparing this Report, this political crisis continues.

92. On 30 May 2007, the UK co-sponsored Resolution 1757 at the Security Council. This bypassed the need for the consent of Lebanon's Government for the tribunal by establishing it under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Five members of the Security Council (including Russia and China) decided to abstain from the vote, although no member voted against the resolution.[163] The then Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett issued a statement on the adoption of Resolution 1757:

By adopting this resolution, the Security Council has demonstrated its support for the Government of Lebanon, and its commitment to the principle that there shall be no impunity for political assassinations, in Lebanon or elsewhere. The tribunal has been a politically sensitive issue. I hope that all parties in Lebanon will now be able to move forward to establish a broad-based government that can make decisions on the basis of consensus.[164]

93. We understand Mrs Beckett's call for a "broad-based government" to mean one that includes representatives from the Shi'a population. The analysis of the Government and its international allies appears to be that Amal and Hezbollah would not politically be able to agree to any tribunal that threatened the Syrian regime. Therefore, they may find it easier to compromise on other issues if they are relieved of the responsibility of making a decision over the tribunal. Whilst there is an argument that the bypassing of Lebanon's state institutions only serves to undermine them and thus increase the potential for civil conflict, Resolution 1757 may equally allow a receding of the political paralysis in Beirut. At the time of the preparation of this Report, it remains too early to assess its impact on the ground.

94. We conclude that those who assassinated Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri must be brought to justice. The Government and its international allies have taken appropriate and measured steps at the UN Security Council to ensure that the tribunal is established. We further conclude that the tribunal process has brought to the surface important questions regarding the under-representation of the Shi'a population in Lebanon's political system. We recommend that the Government work with its international allies to help the Lebanese parties find consensus on a more representative and democratic political system.

The 2006 War

Source: International Crisis Group

95. The principal parties to the 2006 conflict in Lebanon were the Israeli military and the Hezbollah militia. The conflict started on 12 July when Hezbollah launched a raid into Israel's territory, capturing two soldiers and killing others.[165] Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a press conference on the same day that this represented an "act of war" by Lebanon, stating that "Lebanon is responsible and Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions." He justified his remarks by the fact that at this time, Hezbollah had two members in Prime Minister Siniora's Cabinet.[166]

96. Israel launched a ground invasion of southern Lebanon whilst also conducting air strikes, including in Beirut. Simon McDonald, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Israel at the time of the conflict, told the Committee that at the same time, "Hezbollah was attacking Israel by rocket fire from Lebanon." He described the casualty figures during the war as "very unbalanced"—around 140 Israelis and over 1,000 Lebanese.[167] The Human Rights Watch World Report 2007 concluded that over half of the Lebanese and at least 39 of the Israeli casualties had been civilians.[168] The conflict continued until 15 August, at which point a "cessation of hostilities" established under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 came into force.[169] Given the controversy surrounding the war, both in the UK and internationally, the Committee decided to hold an evidence session with Dr Howells and his officials during the Parliamentary recess in September 2006.


97. The Government declined to call for an 'immediate ceasefire' to the hostilities until after the UN Security Council Resolution was passed in mid-August.[170] We asked Dr Howells if he felt this had been the right approach to take. He replied by arguing that an immediate ceasefire would have broken down within a few days and that a "permanent ceasefire" with "some real teeth" was required.[171] We asked Dr Howells why the Government felt it was incompatible to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities whilst also working for a more long term Security Council Resolution at the same time. He replied, "I do not agree […] about the possibility for a dual track diplomatic progress at that time."[172] He went on to claim that he would have had "no confidence whatsoever in a temporary ceasefire."[173] However, replying to a later question, Dr Howells appeared to change his mind. He said:

I am not saying […] that a dual approach might not have worked. I am not saying that and I am not dismissing that at all. Maybe it would have worked.[174]

98. Dr Howells agreed that the Government's position was controversial. He told the Committee that the UK "took a lot of fire diplomatically and if there is such a thing as 'the Arab street' I think we probably generated a lot of hostility".[175] Dr Rosemary Hollis told the Committee that the Government's position in Lebanon was "the last nail in the coffin" for its reputation in the Arab world.[176]

99. Dr Hollis argued that whilst the Government's policy was in part justified, the nature of its diplomacy revealed that it "really hoped that Hezbollah would take a beating."[177] We now turn to this issue of intention. The UN Security Council took one month from the start of the conflict before it was able to adopt Resolution 1701. However, it had first met two days after the conflict began, when members had called for a ceasefire but were blocked by the US and UK.[178] The delay was strongly criticised by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who addressed members when the "cessation of hostilities" was finally called on 11 August:

I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the Council did not reach this point much, much earlier. […] All members of this Council must be aware that its inability to act sooner has badly shaken the world's faith in its authority and integrity.[179]

100. At the time of the conflict, many believed the United States was obstructing calls for an immediate ceasefire to give Israel a chance to defeat overwhelmingly Hezbollah's militia. The BBC journalist Ed Stourton raised this theory with John Bolton, who had been the US Ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the war. Mr Stourton asked him if the US had been "deliberately obstructing diplomatic attempts" to bring an end to the war so that "Israel could have its head." Mr Bolton asked "what's wrong with that?" and added that he was "damn proud of what we did."[180] We wrote to Dr Howells to ask him about Mr Bolton's comments. In his reply, he asserted:

The UK was certainly not involved in collusion with either the US or Israel to support the continuation of hostilities or to block a ceasefire. Whilst I cannot speak for the US position [on] this matter, I do not believe they acted differently.[181]

101. There are three possible explanations for this discrepancy. The first is that Mr Bolton misled the BBC journalist by suggesting that the US blocked diplomacy at the UN because it wanted to give Israel the opportunity to destroy Hezbollah when in fact this was not the case. The second is that the US did indeed block attempts to find a quick diplomatic solution to bring about a ceasefire, but that the UK, even though it is a permanent member of the Security Council and a close ally of the US, was not brought into or made aware of this collusion with Israel. The third alternative, as suggested by Dr Hollis, is that the UK was in fact brought into, or at least aware of, the efforts to obstruct the diplomatic process. Based on the evidence provided to the Committee, we are unable to rule any of these possibilities out.

102. We conclude that the Government's decision not to call for a mutual and immediate cessation of hostilities early on in the Lebanon war has done significant damage to the UK's reputation in much of the world. As the Minister admitted to us, the option of a dual track diplomatic strategy could have succeeded. We believe that such an approach could have led to reduced casualties amongst both Israeli and Lebanese civilians whilst still working towards a long-term solution to the crisis. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government clarify on what date the first draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire or cessation of hostilities was presented to members of the Security Council, and what the Government's response to this draft was.


103. It hardly needs to be said that Hezbollah's kidnap and murder of Israeli soldiers, and its firing of rockets into Israel, were completely unacceptable actions and should be deplored in the strongest terms: this is not an issue of contention. Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks is also unquestionable. However, the nature of Israel's response to Hezbollah's actions has sparked an important debate around proportionality. Dr Howells was in Lebanon on 22 July. Whilst there, he strongly criticised Israeli actions. He said:

I very much hope that the Americans understand what's happening to Lebanon. The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes. And it's very difficult, I think, to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used. You know, if they're chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation.[182]

However, the Government continues to refuse to label Israel's actions as disproportionate. We asked Dr Howells how this position could be held, given his comments above. He replied:

I tried […] to clarify in my own mind what would be disproportionate, and that attempt to clarify what was going on was not made any easier when I went to Haifa, because during the period I was there 80 rockets fell on Haifa. These were not fireworks; these were, essentially, missiles that had a 40 kilo explosive charge in them surrounded by ball bearings.[183]

104. Dr Howells told the Committee that UN investigators were present in Lebanon to assess Israel's actions, that they were the "proper authorities" and that "they should be allowed to do their work and come to their conclusions."[184] The UN Commission of Inquiry into Lebanon later published its report, focusing on the role of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Amongst its numerous findings, it concluded that there was,

a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects, failing to distinguish civilians from combatants and civilian objects from military targets.

It also commented on Israel's attack on UN bases in Lebanon, remarking that it found,

no justification for the 30 direct attacks by the IDF on United Nations positions, including those which resulted in deaths and injury to protected United Nations personnel.[185]

During the conflict, Kofi Annan had referred to the deaths of two UN observers as an "apparently deliberate targeting" by the IDF.[186]

Cluster Munitions

105. One important aspect of proportionality is Israel's use of cluster munitions during the conflict. We have maintained a close interest in the damage caused by cluster munitions, most recently in our Report on the FCO Annual Human Rights Report 2006, where we noted that the UK would immediately withdraw its 'dumb' cluster munitions from service.[187] 'Dumb' cluster munitions are understood to be those that do not discriminate between targets, or do not have mechanisms to self-destruct if they fail to explode on impact.[188]

106. Dr Howells told us that the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (UNMACC) estimates that Israel dropped "in the region of 4 million cluster bombs on Lebanon from artillery projectiles." This figure did not include bombs dropped "via aerial delivery."[189] Although cluster bombs are designed to explode on impact, we were told that if they fail to explode, they effectively become landmines. We later wrote to Chris Clark from the UN in Lebanon, who informed us that the estimate of the failure rate of 'dumb' cluster bombs used by Israel was "moving towards 30%". The failure rate of the so-called 'smart' M85 bomb was established as between 5-10%.[190] In 2003, the Government stated that the failure rate of its 'dumb' BL 755 bomb was 6%.[191] In May 2007, it stated that the failure rate of the 'smart' M85 bomb was 2.3%.[192] We conclude that the failure rate of 'dumb' cluster bombs could be as high as 30%, much higher than the Government's estimate of 6%. We further conclude that the failure rate of 'smart' cluster bombs could be as high as 10%, again significantly higher than the Government's estimate of 2.3%. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government state whether it is prepared to accept that the failure rate of 'smart' cluster munitions could be as high as 10%, and if so, how it justifies continuing to permit UK armed forces to hold such munitions.

107. The UN estimated that one million cluster bombs remained unexploded in south Lebanon following the war.[193] 26% of Lebanon's cultivatable land had been contaminated.[194] Jan Egeland, then the UN's humanitarian chief, noted that 90% of the cluster bombs dropped on Lebanon "occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict", i.e. after Security Council Resolution 1701 had been passed. Mr Egeland called this "shocking and completely immoral."[195] The United States sells cluster bombs to Israel, and on 29 January 2007, the State Department announced that "there were likely violations" by Israel with regard to a "use agreement" between the two countries.[196] This agreement is believed to ban their use in populated areas.[197] In order to give the Israeli Government a fair chance to defend its actions, we decided to write to the Ambassador in London. We asked him what the intended military purpose of using the cluster bombs at a late stage in the war was.[198] In his reply, the Ambassador failed to deal with the issue of timing:

The Israeli use of cluster munitions was in full compliance with international law—specifically the principles of military necessity and proportionality. Cluster munitions were directed at rocket and missile launching sites. In most cases they were fired at open areas. In those cases where they were fired against targets located near or within built-up areas, this was carried out with the utmost caution so as to prevent civilian casualties, often costing our forces the element of surprise. Such measures included the dispersal of millions of fliers in Arabic from the air, the broadcasting of warning messages on the Al-Mashrek radio station and the delivery of thousands of recorded voice messages to telephones.[199]

We consider the international efforts to clear cluster bombs from Lebanon later in this chapter.

108. We accept that Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself from terrorist threats. However, we conclude that elements of Israel's military action in Lebanon were indiscriminate and disproportionate. In particular, the numerous attacks on UN observers and the dropping of over three and a half million cluster bombs (90% of the total) in the 72 hours after the Security Council passed Resolution 1701 were not acceptable. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government explicitly state whether it believes that, in the light of information now available, Israel's use of cluster bombs was proportionate.


Implementing Resolution 1701

109. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established in 1978 during Lebanon's civil war. Security Council Resolution 1701 increased the size of UNIFIL from 2,000 troops in August 2006 to a maximum of 15,000. UNIFIL's mandate was also strengthened so that it became the means of monitoring the "cessation of hostilities" set out in Resolution 1701. Although UNIFIL was only to deploy south of the Litani river, the Resolution also emphasised the need for the Government of Lebanon to establish its authority over all of its territory and called for the halt of all arms smuggling to groups in Lebanon.[200] It is clear that this is a reference to the fact that Iran and Syria have historically supplied Hezbollah with much of its weaponry.[201]

110. In March 2007, we asked Dr Howells about Hezbollah's level of arms. He replied that,

from our intelligence it seems to be back to the pre-war levels as far as rockets and other weapons are concerned. They have come across the Syrian border and we have called upon the Syrians many times to police that border properly and, if anything, the Syrians have done the opposite and have threatened retaliatory action if there is a serious attempt made at policing it. That is a serious situation and is a real violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and its Government.[202]

In a written submission, his assessment was that there was no "significant Hezbollah activity in breach of UNSCR 1701." However, he mentioned that Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, had "said publicly that Hezbollah is back to full military strength" and that he remained concerned by credible reports of smuggling across the Syria-Lebanon border.[203] In February, The Times reported that Hezbollah was regrouping and rearming north of the Litani river, i.e. above the boundary of UNIFIL's operations.[204] In a written answer in June 2007, Mrs Beckett, in what appeared to be a hardening of the Government's view, stated that the Government judged Syria to be "involved in providing Hezbollah with weapons as well as facilitating the transfer of weapons from Iran in breach of UNSCR 1701."[205]

111. When in Lebanon, we heard accusations that Israel had been violating Lebanon's sovereignty through the use of 'overflights' in Lebanese airspace. We asked Dr Howells if the Government kept any record of the frequency of these flights. He presented the following data obtained by UNIFIL:
Month (2007)Number of overflights

He further remarked:

The Israelis claim that such overflights are necessary to monitor arms smuggling to Hezbollah across the Syria/Lebanon border. Both the UK and other international partners have made representations calling on Israel to cease overflights into Lebanese territory. We continue to call on all parties, including Israel, to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and to respect Lebanon's territorial sovereignty and integrity. It is difficult to assess whether these representations have had an impact on Israel's behaviour, but we will continue to urge Israel to bring overflights to an end.[206]

112. We conclude that both arms smuggling to Hezbollah and Israeli overflights into sovereign Lebanese territory threaten to undermine and embarrass the Government of Lebanon, as well as the UNIFIL forces operating in the south. We are concerned that the Government's calls on Israel to halt overflights are having little impact on its behaviour. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government set out what progress has been made on addressing both of these issues. This should include the most up-to-date figures on overflights as well as any new evidence of arms smuggling from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah.

Cluster Munitions

113. As noted above, there were approximately one million unexploded cluster bombs in south Lebanon at the end of the 2006 conflict, contaminating 26% of the country's cultivatable land. When we were in south Lebanon, we were able to see the work of the international teams (including the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group) attempting to neutralise the unexploded ordnance. When Dr Howells wrote to us in May, he noted that 16% of the contaminated land had been cleared, noting that it would take an estimated twelve to fifteen months to clear the remaining area. Dr Howells set out the support given by the Government to the clearance efforts:

The UK has committed a total of £2,782,000 for de-mining work in Lebanon so far. The Government is planning to provide a further £320k this year to the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) for their £2.3m cluster bomb clearance programme in Lebanon, and £1m to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), some of which will be allocated to Lebanon.[207]

Dr Howells later wrote to us stating that the estimated date of the completion for the work would be December 2008. He noted, however, that UN teams are working towards a December 2007 deadline to make south Lebanon "impact-free"—i.e. clearing cluster munitions from areas where they pose the greatest danger to civilian populations.[208]

114. When we were in Lebanon, we also heard claims that the Government of Israel was refusing to hand over relevant maps that would help locate cluster bomb strike areas. Dr Howells told us that the Government had "raised the issue" with Israel, "asking them to hand over the artillery data for their cluster bomb strikes." He continued:

On 20 November 2006 an IDF Spokesperson informed us that, following the conflict, Israel had transferred maps to UNIFIL identifying areas suspected as consisting of duds, including those of cluster munitions. However, the UN continues to claim that the data provided is insufficient.[209]

We wrote to the Israeli Ambassador in London, asking him whether, and if so, why, Israel has refused to hand over the relevant maps to the Government.[210] He replied on 2 July 2007, insisting that Israel voluntarily handed over operational maps to UNIFIL.[211] However, the next day, Dr Howells provided the House with an update of this situation:

We have […] asked the Government of Israel to hand over all relevant maps […] I am afraid that, so far, we have not had that co-operation, although we have had promises of it.[212]

115. We conclude that the international effort to decontaminate south Lebanon from unexploded cluster bombs is of the utmost importance. We further conclude that the Government has made a good contribution to this work. We strongly welcome the brave work of the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group as part of this effort. We recommend that the Government continue to support those working on cluster bomb clearance in south Lebanon and that it accelerate its financial contribution to enable the UN deadline for cluster bomb clearance of south Lebanon by December 2007 to be met. We are deeply concerned that the UN feels it does not have sufficient data from Israel on this issue. It is inexcusable that Israel is not providing full co-operation almost a year on from the conflict. We recommend that the Government apply strong pressure on Israel to provide the necessary information to the UN as soon as possible.

Engaging with Hezbollah

116. In the section above, we noted that Hezbollah appears to be re-arming, with the likelihood that these arms are being supplied by Syria and Iran. We have also referred to the nature in which Hezbollah and its allies have been challenging the Government of Lebanon by demanding effective veto powers in a future administration. Nadim Shehadi argued to us that "Hezbollah is definitely a legitimate political party in Lebanon." He told us:

There is a debate in Lebanon involving Hezbollah in order to convince it to join the political process and to lay down its arms and military agenda, which is seen as more in the interests of Syria and Iran. I am afraid that we lost that argument with Hezbollah in the summer. Part of Hezbollah's argument for the legitimacy of its armed resistance is that Israel is a threat—this summer proved it—and that the west and the UN are not a credible protection… Hezbollah is now much stronger politically and it is more difficult than it was to take away its arms by political means.[213]

117. Hezbollah's relationship with Syria and Iran is an issue of contest. Dr Howells told us that "Hezbollah, as far as I am concerned, is a puppet organisation run and owned by the Iranians with the complicity of the Syrians."[214] However, Patrick Seale disagreed, arguing that "Hezbollah is not a creation of Syria and Iran. It is a genuine Lebanese movement, representing the southern community." He suggested that "the more successful that Hezbollah has been in standing up to Israel, the more autonomous it has become."[215]

118. The UK does not have any relations with Hezbollah. Its External Security Office— i.e. its militia force, not its political apparatus—has been proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organisation since 2001.[216] Dr Howells gave us his opinion on engagement with Hezbollah. He said:

I am not going to go out of my way to talk to people who are trying to subvert the democratic process so that they can enhance the standing and position of an extremist Islamist organisation that does not value democracy at all.[217]

However, this apparently clear-cut position was muddied somewhat when, in the same evidence session, Dr Howells told the Committee he believed he had met someone who was "essentially Hezbollah."[218] He remarked that it was often difficult to distinguish between politicians belonging to Hezbollah, and its allied party Amal, with whom the Government does have contact.[219]

119. We asked Patrick Seale what the Government's approach towards Hezbollah should be. He argued that given its very strong support amongst the Shi'a community (for both its welfare programmes and militia operations) Hezbollah needed to be brought into the tent, noting that "you cannot really keep it out in the long term."[220] On our visit, we asked a range of Lebanese politicians whether the British Government should engage directly with the group. No one, including bitter opponents of Hezbollah, told us that the current Government approach was the correct one.

120. We conclude that Hezbollah is undeniably an important element in Lebanon's politics, although its influence, along with Iran's and Syria's, continues to be a malign one. We further conclude that, as the movement will realistically only be disarmed through a political process, the Government should encourage Hezbollah to play a part in Lebanon's mainstream politics. We recommend that the Government should engage directly with moderate Hezbollah Parliamentarians. The Government should continue to refuse to engage with the military wing of Hezbollah.

146   Q 89 Back

147   Q 89 Back

148   Q 84 Back

149   "Huge car bomb kills Lebanon's former Prime Minister", The New York Times, 15 February 2007 Back

150   "Hariri's son poised for Beirut victory", The Guardian, 28 May 2005 Back

151   "Report of the International Independent Investigation Commission Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1595 (2005)", 19 October 2005, p 53, Back

152   "UN pressures Syria on assassination probe", Washington Post, 1 November 2005 Back

153   Security Council Resolution 1664 (2006), 29 March 2006, Back

154   Q 174 Back

155   Q 175 Back

156   Q 174 Back

157   Q 89 Back

158   Q 89 Back

159   Q 89 Back

160   Q 94 Back

161   International Crisis Group, Lebanon at a Trip-wire, 21 December 2006, Back

162   Q 178 Back

163   "UN votes to set up Hariri tribunal", The Guardian, 31 May 2007 Back

164   "Statement: Special Tribunal for Lebanon", 30 May 2007, Back

165   "Diplomatic timeline: Lebanon and Israel July 2006", The Guardian, 2 August 2006 Back

166   "PM Olmert: Lebanon is responsible and will bear the consequences", 12 July 2006, Back

167   Q 159 Back

168   Human Rights Watch, World Report 2007, p 476 Back

169   Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006), 11 August 2006, Back

170   "Blair urges 'immediate ceasefire'", BBC News Online, 12 August 2006, Back

171   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 13 September 2006, HC 1583-i, Q 5, Q 4 Back

172   Ibid, Q11 Back

173   Ibid, Q12 Back

174   Ibid, Q20 Back

175   Ibid, Q11 Back

176   Q 66 Back

177   Q 66 Back

178   "Diplomatic timeline: Lebanon and Israel July 2006", The Guardian, 2 August 2006 Back

179   "Secretary-General's statement to the Security Council on the adoption of a resolution on Lebanon", 11 August 2006,  Back

180   "War in Lebanon - insiders discuss what really happened", BBC Press Office, 22 March 2007, Back

181   Ev 126, para 7 Back

182   "Minister condemns Israeli action", BBC News Online, 22 July 2006, Back

183   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 13 September 2006, HC 1583-i, Q 14 Back

184   Ibid, Q15 Back

185   "Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-2/1", 23 November 2006, pp 3-4, Back

186   "Secretary-General shocked by coordinated Israeli attack on United Nations observer post in Lebanon, which killed two peacekeepers", 25 July 2006,  Back

187   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2006-07, Human Rights Annual Report 2006, HC 269, paras 29-38 Back

188   Cluster Munitions, Standard Note SN/IA/4339, House of Commons Library, May 2007 Back

189   Ev 125, para 5 Back

190   Ev 123 Back

191   HC Deb 16 June 2003, col 55W Back

192   HL Deb 17 May 2007, cols 320-1 Back

193   Ev 125, para 4 Back

194   "Cluster bombs: a war's perilous aftermath", Christian Science Monitor, 7 February 2007 Back

195   "UN denounces Israel cluster bombs", BBC News Online, 30 August 2006, Back

196   "US says Israel cluster bomb use possible violation", Reuters, 29 January 2007 Back

197   "US investigates whether Israel violated deal on cluster bombs", The Guardian, 26 August 2006 Back

198   Ev 136 Back

199   Ev 136 Back

200   "Lebanon - UNIFIL - Background",  Back

201   Q 90 Back

202   Q 181 Back

203   Ev 126, para 8 Back

204   "Hezbollah regroups in a new mountain stronghold", The Times, 26 February 2007 Back

205   HC Deb, 15 June 2007, col 1381W Back

206   Ev 127, para 9 Back

207   Ev 125, para 4 Back

208   Ev 137, para 4 Back

209   Ev 125, para 5 Back

210   Ev 136 Back

211   Ev 136 Back

212   HC Deb, 3 July 2007, col 806W Back

213   Q 98 Back

214   Q 178 Back

215   Q 90 Back

216   "More 'terror' groups face ban", BBC News Online, 1 March 2001,  Back

217   Q 178 Back

218   Q 176 Back

219   Q 177 Back

220   Q 89 Back

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