Expected Council Action
In June, Iran will almost certainly be on the Council’s agenda again. As forecast last month, a draft resolution was introduced by France and the UK and, at press time, negotiations are still ongoing. Adoption in June now seems likely. Follow up action also seems likely in June.
The draft would establish a binding obligation on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment processes. The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be requested to verify compliance.
The Council is also expecting to be briefed, in conjunction with consideration of the draft resolution, about a separate package of “incentives and disincentives” being developed by the EU3 (Germany, France and the UK)-an approach which flowed out of P5 discussions earlier in May. The incentives, which seem likely to be presented to Iran before the Council meets, seem likely to include assistance with the Iranian nuclear programme. The disincentives-sanctions-would be clearly signalled but would require further Council action. It is expected that the draft will reflect the package and include an intention to consider further measures in case of non-compliance.
With respect to the current negotiations over the draft resolution it seems that the Council itself will have few options when agreement is reached amongst the P5 and Germany. Most members seem ready to accept the outcome.
Depending on Iran’s response, however, the Council seems likely to have the following options:
Impose various sanctions if Iran rejects the package outright. (The options in this regard include targeted sanctions against individuals or limited economic sanctions targeting specific commodities or a combination of both. Full economic sanctions, such as against Iraq in 1990, seem unlikely.)
If, however, Iran signals some flexibility an option may be for the Council to call for a more inclusive negotiating process to flesh out the details, including not only the EU3, but perhaps also in some sort of innovative format include Russia and the US and even some other Council members, under a framework in which Iran suspends the uranium enrichment process and allows the resumption of full inspections under its safeguards agreement during the negotiations.
The US, France and the UK are seeking a legally binding resolution on Iran to comply with all confidence-building measures required by the IAEA and by the 29 March presidential statement. China and Russia seem to agree on the objective, but an underlying difference in approach remains.
The P3 consider that a Chapter VII resolution is essential to establish a legally binding character and that, in any case, it will provide a firmer political message to Iran. Also, because they consider uranium enrichment is a proliferation risk, and because there have been problems about transparency with Iran’s enrichment programme, the P3 argue that the international community has to act on the basis of prevention.
Russia and China had reservations on the initial draft. They argued that:
All Council resolutions are legally binding and not only the ones adopted under Chapter VII;
A Chapter VII resolution is only needed when concrete measures are to be taken to restore international peace and security; and
The current draft could pave the way to military intervention, about which they disagree unless there is a proof that Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons.
Although they agree with a policy of incremental pressure, they prefer to move in smaller and more cautious increments. They argued at the P5 plus Germany meetings on 2 and 8 May that the threat of sanctions at that point was counterproductive.
In response to these views the P3 agreed at the 8 May P5 plus Germany meeting, that before pushing ahead with language which might imply sanctions they would also develop a parallel package of incentives so that both could be on the table. This was an important compromise to Russian and Chinese views and, in return, the P3 will be expecting greater unity when the package is presented to the Council. (The package is likely to be presented to Tehran almost simultaneously with its presentation to the Council.)
The dynamics have been further complicated by the appearance towards the end of May of divergences, not only with Russia and China, but also between the EU3 and the US on aspects of the “incentives” part of the package.
In May the UK and France continued their efforts to better share information on the progress of the draft resolution with elected Council members (E10) through the convening of more Council consultations. However, negotiations among the P5 outside New York have tended to exclude the E10 from participation in the process.
The first issue is whether the package of incentives and disincentives will secure the votes of certain reluctant Council members. It seems unlikely that any Council members will object or seek to argue that the package should be open to some negotiation before the resolution is adopted.
The main issue for June will be Iran’s response to both the package and the resolution because it will determine the next steps by the Council. If Iran rejects the package, the P3 have made it clear that they would then seek a further Council resolution including sanctions against Iran. If the current draft is adopted unanimously, opposition to the Council moving to the next steps will be more difficult to sustain.
Another issue is the timing of the IAEA report on Iran’s compliance to be requested in the resolution. There may be interest by some members in pushing out the compliance report deadline. A factor is that the next meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors is scheduled for 12 June. A related issue is whether the report would need to be considered by the Board-which might become relevant if the Iranian response is not one of outright rejection and there are technical points to be resolved.
On 28 April, the Director General of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, submitted a report on the progress of Iranian compliance with the steps required by the IAEA Board in connection with the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreements in Iran, as requested by the presidential statement adopted in March by the Council. The report noted that:
the existing gaps in knowledge on Iran’s nuclear programme continued to be a matter of concern;
Iran had not resumed cooperation with the IAEA under the Additional Protocol; and
Iran had not implemented the confidence-building measures requested by the Board of Governors and the Security Council, such as the suspension of uranium enrichment.
On 2 May, the Political Directors of the P5 and Germany met in Paris. While it appeared that there was unity among the P5 and Germany on the fact that Iran should comply with the international demands to suspend uranium enrichment, differences of views about the approach remained.
France and the UK circulated the draft resolution to all Council members on 3 May. On 8 May, a ministerial meeting was held in New York among the P5 and Germany in order to find a common position on the draft. Russia and China expressed their reluctance to adopt a Chapter VII resolution. But the participants agreed to explore further possibilities for encouraging Iran to come back to the negotiating table. The Europeans agreed to develop a package of incentives and disincentives in order to persuade Iran to limit its nuclear programme and reinstate fuller inspections. The incentives seem likely to include civilian nuclear cooperation, including access to reactor technology and a revived version of the Russian proposal for enrichment to take place in Russia and various economic and trade partnerships. It seems that possible security guarantees and a wider negotiating team involving all the interested parties, including the US, have been discussed but the US is not ready to got so far.
The US, on 15 May, announced its intention to normalise relations with Libya, almost three years after Libya renounced to its illegal nuclear programme. The timing of this initiative has been largely interpreted as a hint to Iran.
On 18 May the Secretary of the League of Arab States wrote to the Security Council expressing “complete rejection” of nuclear weapons in the region and reactivated an earlier Arab proposal for a regional nuclear weapon free zone-an issue with implications for Israel as well as Iran.
Various experts are advocating for some role for the US in negotiations with Iran, bearing in mind that in 1994, following action in the Council against North Korea’s nuclear programme, multilateral talks including the US, had allowed room for successful negotiation between all the necessary players.
Reportedly ElBaradei also raised this question with the US. However, it seems the US is not ready for this as yet. The memory of the Iranian hostage crisis, Iran’s support for terrorist groups and the aggressive rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad against Israel no doubt contribute to US reluctance. Iran seems open to direct involvement with the US but there is uncertainty whether this is fully agreed in Iran.
|Latest IAEA Board Resolution|
|Latest IAEA Reports|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|Other UN Documents|
Please see our February 2006 Monthly Forecast for Key Facts and Historical Background.
Useful Additional Sources
Anthony Bubalo, Michael Fullilove and Mark Thirlwell, Fueling Confrontation: Iran, the US and the Oil Weapon, Lowly Institute for International policy, May 2006