Creation of UNOGIL
Method of operation
First UNOGIL report
Dispatch of United States forces
Events in Jordan
Further UNOGIL report
General Assembly emergency session
Special Representative appointed
Termination of UNOGIL
In May 1958, armed rebellion broke out in Lebanon when President Camille Chamoun (a Maronite Christian) made known his intention to seek an amendment to the Constitution which would enable him to be re-elected for a second term. The disturbances, which started in the predominantly Moslem city of Tripoli, soon spread to Beirut and the northern and north-eastern areas near the Syrian border, and assumed the proportions of a civil war.
On 22 May, the Lebanese Government requested a meeting of the Security Council to consider its complaint “in respect of a situation arising from the intervention of the United Arab Republic in the internal affairs of Lebanon, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security”. It charged that the United Arab Republic was encouraging and supporting the rebellion by the supply of large quantities of arms to subversive elements in Lebanon, by the infiltration of armed personnel from Syria into Lebanon, and by conducting a violent press and radio campaign against the Lebanese Government.
On 27 May, the Security Council decided to include the Lebanese complaint on its agenda but, at the request of Iraq, agreed to postpone the debate to permit the League of Arab States to try to find a settlement of the dispute. After the League had met for six days without reaching agreement, the Council took up the case and, on 11 June, adopted resolution 128 (1958), by which it decided to dispatch urgently to Lebanon an observation group “so as to ensure that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other matériel across the Lebanese borders”. The Secretary-General was authorized to take the necessary steps to dispatch the observation group, which was asked to keep the Council informed through him.
Resolution 128 (1958), supported by both Lebanon and the United Arab Republic, formed the basis for the establishment of the United Nations Observation Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL).
Following adoption of the Security Council's resolution 128 (1958), Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld told the Council that the necessary preparatory steps had already been taken. The Observation Group proper would be made up of highly qualified and experienced men from various regions of the world. They would be assisted by military observers, some of whom would be drawn from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and could be in Beirut on the very next day. The Secretary-General stressed that the Group would not be a police force like the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) deployed in Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
Following the adoption of the resolution, the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Galo Plaza Lasso of Ecuador, Mr. Rajeshwar Dayal of India and Major-General Odd Bull of Norway as members of UNOGIL. Mr. Plaza acted as Chairman.
In order to start the operation without delay, 10 observers were immediately detached from UNTSO for assignment with UNOGIL. Five of them arrived in Beirut on 12 June and began active reconnaissance the following morning. The plan was to cover as many areas as possible and to probe further each day in the direction of the Syrian border so as to observe any illegal infiltration of personnel and supply of arms across the border. The number of observers was rapidly increased with new arrivals and reached 100 by 16 June. Two helicopters were placed at the disposal of the Group on 23 June, and they were supplemented shortly thereafter by four light observation aircraft.
The three members of UNOGIL assembled in Beirut on 19 June under the personal chairmanship of Dag Hammarskjöld, who had arrived in the area the day before. As outlined by the Secretary-General, the role of UNOGIL was strictly limited to observation, to ascertain whether illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other matériel across the Lebanese borders was occurring. It was not UNOGIL's task to mediate, arbitrate or forcefully to prohibit illegal infiltration, although it was hoped that its very presence on the borders would deter any such traffic. The borders meant those between Lebanon and Syria, since the Armistice Demarcation Line between Israel and Lebanon was covered by UNTSO and not involved in the present case.
It was decided that the Group should discharge its duties by the following methods:
(a) The UNOGIL military observers would conduct regular and frequent patrols of all accessible roads from dawn to dusk, primarily in border districts and the areas adjacent to the zones held by the opposition forces.
(b) A system of permanent observation posts was to be established and manned by military observers. There were initially 10 such stations. The observers at these stations attempted to check all reported infiltration in their areas and to observe any suspicious development.
(c) An emergency reserve of military observers was to be stationed at headquarters and main observation posts for the purpose of making inquiries at short notice or investigating alleged instances of smuggling.
(d) An evaluation team was to be set up at headquarters to analyse, evaluate and coordinate all information received from observers and other sources.
(e) Aerial reconnaissance was to be conducted by light aeroplanes and helicopters, the former being equipped for aerial photography.
(f) The Lebanese Government would provide the Observation Group with all available information about suspected infiltration. The Group would also request the military observers to make specific inquiries into alleged activities as occasion required.
On 1 July 1958, UNOGIL submitted its first report to the Security Council. The report, which dealt with the problems of observation arising from the political, military and geographical circumstances prevailing in Lebanon, indicated that the observers were facing difficulties in gaining access to much of the frontier area held by the opposition forces and could provide no substantiated or conclusive evidence of major infiltration.
The Lebanese Government criticized what it called the report's “inconclusive, misleading or unwarranted” conclusions. It took strong exception to the report and insisted that the United Arab Republic was continuing “massive, illegal and unprovoked intervention in the affairs of Lebanon”.
Initially, the military observers encountered serious difficulties in approaching the eastern and northern frontiers, where large areas were in opposition hands. In the early stage, these areas could only be patrolled by aircraft, including photographic and night reconnaissance. But the situation greatly improved by mid-July, when UNOGIL finally obtained full freedom of access to all sections of the Lebanese frontier and received assurances of complete freedom to conduct ground patrols throughout the area north of Tripoli and to establish permanent observation posts anywhere in that area. Arrangements were also made for inspection by military observers of all vehicles and cargoes entering Lebanon across the northern frontier.
In the meantime, however, new complications arose outside Lebanon's borders. On 14 July 1958, the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq was overthrown in a coup d'état and replaced with a republican regime. This event had serious repercussions both on Lebanon and Jordan. On the same day, President Chamoun requested United States intervention to protect Lebanon's political independence and territorial integrity.
On 15 July, the Security Council was convened at the request of the representative of the United States, who informed it of his Government's decision to respond positively to the Lebanese request. He stated that United States forces were not in Lebanon to engage in hostilities of any kind but to help the Lebanese Government in its efforts to stabilize the situation, brought on by threats from outside, until such time as the United Nations could take the necessary steps to protect the integrity and independence of Lebanon. He added that his Government was the first to admit that the dispatch of United States forces to Lebanon was not an ideal way to solve the current problems and that these forces would be withdrawn as soon as the United Nations could take over.
During the same meeting, the Secretary-General made a statement reviewing the actions he had taken under the mandate given to him in the Security Council's resolution 128 (1958). He stated that he had acted solely with the purpose stated by the Council, “to ensure that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other matériel across the Lebanese borders”. His actions had had no relation to developments that must be considered as the internal affairs of Lebanon, nor had he concerned himself with the wider international aspects of the problem other than those referred to in the resolution. As a matter of course, he had striven to give the observation operation the highest possible efficiency. The Secretary-General also mentioned his own diplomatic efforts in support of the operation, which now had full freedom of movement in the northern area as well as in the rest of Lebanon.
On 16 July, UNOGIL submitted an interim report stating that on the previous day it had completed the task of obtaining full freedom of access to all sections of the frontier of Lebanon. The next day, in a second interim report, the Group expressed its intention to suggest to the Secretary-General that a force of unarmed non-commissioned personnel and other ranks should be assigned to it. It also indicated that the number of observers would have to be raised to 200, with additional aircraft and crews. With the envisaged increase in the observer force, and the addition of enlisted personnel and supporting equipment, it would be possible to undertake direct and constant patrolling of the actual frontier. In transmitting this report, the Secretary-General stated that he fully endorsed the plan contained in it.
On 17 July, the representative of Jordan requested the Security Council to give urgent consideration to a complaint by his Government of interference in its domestic affairs by the United Arab Republic. The Council decided on the same day to consider this complaint concurrently with the Lebanese complaint.
During the ensuing discussions, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that his Government had no doubt that a fresh attempt was being prepared to overthrow the regime in Jordan. In response to an appeal by the Jordanian Government, British forces were being dispatched to Jordan to help its King and Government to preserve the country's political independence and territorial integrity. This action would be brought to an end if arrangements could be made by the Council to protect the lawful Government of Jordan from external threats and so maintain international peace and security.
The Soviet and Swedish draft resolutions were rejected by majorities, while the United States proposal was vetoed by the Soviet Union.
Following those votes, Japan proposed a draft resolution under which the Secretary-General would be requested to make arrangements for such measures, in addition to those envisaged by Council's resolution 128 (1958), as he might consider necessary in the light of the present circumstances, “with a view to enabling the United Nations to fulfil the general purposes established in that resolution, and which will, in accordance with the Charter, serve to ensure the territorial integrity and political independence of Lebanon, so as to make possible the withdrawal of the United States forces from Lebanon”. This draft resolution was also rejected, owing to a Soviet negative vote.
Following the rejection of the Japanese proposal, the Secretary-General stated that, although the Security Council had failed to take additional action in the grave emergency facing it, the United Nations responsibility to make all efforts to live up to the purposes and principles of the Charter remained. He was sure that he would be acting in accordance with the Council's wishes if he used all opportunities offered to him, within the limits set by the Charter, towards developing those efforts, so as to help prevent a further deterioration of the situation in the Middle East and to assist in finding a road away from the dangerous point now reached. The continued operation of UNOGIL being acceptable to all Council members would imply concurrence in the further development of the Group, so as to give it all the significance it could have, consistent with its basic character as determined by the Council in its resolution 128 (1958) and the purposes and principles of the Charter. He indicated that, should the members of the Council disapprove of the way these intentions were to be translated by him into practical steps, he would, of course, accept the consequences of its judgement.
The Secretary-General's plan was to increase the strength of UNOGIL as soon as possible to enable it to carry out fully its mission and thus expedite the withdrawal of the United States troops. The number of personnel, which stood at 200 on 17 July 1958, was increased to 287 by 20 September and to 591 in mid-November, including 32 non-commissioned officers in support of ground operations and 90 such officers in the air section. In November, UNOGIL had 18 aircraft, six helicopters and 290 vehicles, and 49 permanently manned posts of all types had been established.
On 30 July, UNOGIL submitted a periodic report on its activities and observations. It stated that the military observers were operating with skill and devotion, often in conditions of considerable danger and difficulty. Intensive air patrolling had been carried out by day and by night, and air observations had been checked against the results of ground patrolling and observation. The Group reached the conclusion that the infiltration which might be taking place could not be anything more than of limited scale and was largely confined to small arms and ammunition.
With regard to illegal infiltration of personnel, UNOGIL stated that the nature of the frontier, the existence of traditional tribal and other bands on both sides of it and the free movement of produce in both directions were among the factors which must be taken into account in making an evaluation. In no case, however, had the observers, who had been vigilantly patrolling the opposition-held areas and had frequently observed armed bands there, been able to detect the presence of persons who had undoubtedly entered from across the border for the purpose of fighting. From the observations made of the arms and organization in the opposition-held areas, the fighting strength of opposition elements was not such as to be able successfully to cope with hostilities against a well-armed regular military force.
The United States troops, which had landed in Beirut on 15 July, were confined at all times to the beach area and there were no contacts between them and the United Nations military observers. However, UNOGIL indicated in its report that the impact of the landing of those forces in the Beirut area on the inhabitants of opposition-held areas had occasioned difficulties and caused setbacks in carrying out the tasks of the observers.
During the discussions in the Security Council in July, both the Soviet Union and the United States proposed the convening of an emergency special session of the General Assembly, but the matter was not taken up until 7 August. In the intervening period, the leaders of France, India, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States held consultations through exchanges of letters in an effort to find a way out of the impasse. The idea of a “summit” meeting on the Middle East was advanced, but no agreement could be reached. On 7 August, the Security Council met again and decided to call an emergency special session of the Assembly.
That session took place from 8 to 21 August 1958. By the time the Assembly convened, two events which had an important bearing on the developments in the Middle East had occurred. First, General Fuad Chehab, who was acceptable to the Moslem leaders, had been elected President of Lebanon, and this effectively removed from the scene the controversial question of a second term for Mr. Chamoun. Second, the new Iraqi revolutionary Government had accepted the obligations of States under the United Nations Charter and had been recognized by the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a report of 14 August, UNOGIL indicated that just before the election of President Chehab there had been a noticeable reduction of tension throughout the country and a comparable absence of armed clashes between Government and opposition forces. Since 31 July, there had been a virtual nationwide truce with only occasional reports of sporadic firing in some areas. The report also indicated that by dint of their perseverance and tact in dealing with difficult and often dangerous situations, the observers had won back the ground lost after 15 July. Most of the permanent stations in opposition-held areas envisaged by the Group had been established, and other stations were expected to be set up shortly.
At the end of the emergency special session, the General Assembly unanimously adopted, on 21 August, a proposal submitted by 10 Arab States. This became resolution 1237 (ES-III), by which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to make forthwith, in consultation with the Governments concerned and in accordance with the Charter, such practical arrangements as would adequately help to uphold Charter purposes and principles in relation to Lebanon and Jordan in the present circumstances, and thereby facilitate the early withdrawal of the foreign troops from the two countries.
In a report dated 29 September to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General commented on the practical arrangements mentioned in the Assembly's August resolution. He noted that, in the case of Lebanon, the United Nations had already made extensive plans for observing the possible infiltration or smuggling of arms across the border. The work of the Observation Group had had to be re-evaluated within the new practical arrangements to be made. As to Jordan, its Government had indicated that it did not accept the stationing of a United Nations force in Jordan nor the organization of a broader observation group like UNOGIL. But it would accept a special representative of the Secretary-General to assist in the implementation of the resolution. Consequently, the Secretary-General asked Mr. Pier P. Spinelli, the Under-Secretary in charge of the United Nations Office at Geneva, to proceed to Amman and to serve as his Special Representative, on a preliminary basis.
With regard to the withdrawal issues, the Secretary-General had been informed that Lebanon and the United States were discussing a schedule for the completion of the withdrawal of the United States forces, and that they hoped this might take place by the end of October. Jordan and the United Kingdom were also discussing the fixing of dates for the withdrawal of the British troops from Jordan, which would begin during October.
In its fourth report to the Security Council, which was circulated on 29 September 1958, UNOGIL stated that, during the period being reviewed, its military observers had not only been able to re-establish confidence in the independent nature of their activities, but had won for themselves the trust and understanding of all sections of the population. Despite the presence of a considerable number of men under arms, there had been no significant clashes between the Lebanese army and organized opposition forces. No cases of infiltration had been detected and, if any infiltration was still taking place, its extent must be regarded as insignificant.
In a letter dated 1 October, the United Kingdom informed the Secretary-General that it had agreed with the Jordanian Government that the withdrawal of British troops should begin on 20 October. On 8 October, the United States announced that, by agreement with the Lebanese Government, it had been decided to complete the withdrawal of United States forces by the end of October. The withdrawal of United States troops was completed by 25 October, and of the British troops by 2 November.
In a letter dated 16 November 1958, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lebanon stated that cordial and close relations between Lebanon and the United Arab Republic had resumed their normal course. In order to dispel any misunderstanding which might hamper such relations, the Lebanese Government requested the Security Council to delete the Lebanese complaint from its agenda.
In its final report, dated 17 November 1958, UNOGIL recommended that the operation should be withdrawn since its task might be regarded as completed. On 21 November, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council a plan for the withdrawal of the operation, formulated by the Observation Group, which was acceptable to Lebanon.
In accordance with that plan, the closing down of stations and substations preparatory to the withdrawal of UNOGIL began on 26 November and was completed by the end of the month. The observers were withdrawn in three phases, with the key staff, the personnel required for air service and the logistic components leaving last. The withdrawal was completed by 9 December 1958.
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