August 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 July 2006
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action
At press time, the Council is poised to adopt a resolution on Iran.  The resolution, implementing an agreement reached in Paris on 12 July by the P5 and Germany (P5+1), responds to concerns about ongoing delay in securing a response to the package of incentives proposed to Iran in June in order to persuade Iran to re-engage in negotiations over a peaceful nuclear programme and comply with previous resolutions by the IAEA Board of Governors.

The Council expects that a response from Iran will be received in August. Under an optimistic scenario, following a report from IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, this would lead to Council discussions in early September and then to negotiations with Iran.

Under a less optimistic scenario, particularly if Iran responds adversely to the resolution, the issue would come back to the Council to respond to the situation and sanctions would be on the table in August.

Options
The options for the Council in August largely depend on (1) the Iranian reaction to the resolution and (2) the Iranian response to the package proposal.

  • If Iran rejects the package (or withdraws or threatens to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]), the Council could adopt another resolution calling upon it to reconsider its decision (following the 1993 precedent when North Korea said it would withdraw from the NPT).  Alternatively, the Council could proceed immediately with the adoption of sanctions.
  • An ambiguous response to the package proposal seems likely.  In that event, the option for the Council is to await the ElBaradei report.  However, many Council members (and the media) are likely to make their own assessments of the extent of Iranian compliance quite quickly, meaning that, in practice, comments on the issue are likely to emerge before the end of August, perhaps leading to Council members and others staking out their positions.
  • The third option is a positive Iranian response, which is likely to lead, after the ElBaradei report, to a process for commencing negotiations.

Recent Developments
At the beginning of June a package of incentives was offered to Iran by the P5+1 in order to develop a cooperation framework on a peaceful nuclear civilian energy programme in Iran. This was linked to a demand for suspension of uranium enrichment activities as a pre-condition to engage in talks. Contrary to expectations, the P5+1 agreed to suspend putting immediate pressure on Iran and the draft resolution was not circulated formally in the Council. Instead, the P5+1 simply indicated publicly that if Iran did not agree to negotiate, further steps would be taken by the Council.

This suspension of pressure lasted for approximately one month, by which time the P5+1, concerned about delay, decided that the package should be sent to the rest of the Council and it was made public on 13 July (S/2006/521). It contains:

  • Pre-conditions for the start of negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with Iran. In exchange for full cooperation with the IAEA, the suspension of uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities before and during negotiations, and for the implementation of the Additional Protocol by Iran, the P5+1 offered to actively support the development by Iran of a civil nuclear energy programme and to suspend discussions of Iran’s nuclear programme in the Security Council.
  • A list of areas of future nuclear, political and economic cooperation to be covered during the negotiations. The incentives include promoting Tehran’s membership in the World Trade Organization, the lifting of US and European restrictions on the export of civilian aircraft and telecommunications equipment, and help in building light water nuclear power reactors.

Iran said it would consider the offer seriously. But there have been indications that some in Iran are opposed to accepting the terms of the offer. In addition, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared his unwillingness to give up Iran’s nuclear fuel technology and the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motaki has said Iran would only come to the negotiating table on its nuclear programme “without pre-conditions”.

The US and the EU concluded that a substantive response to the package of incentives should be given when Iranian chief negotiator Ali Larijani met with Javier Solana and the foreign ministers of the P5+1 in Brussels on 11 July. But Iran rebuffed the pressure for a response at that time and the meeting ended without result. In response, on 12 July, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Douste-Blazy, on behalf of the P5+1, said that Iran had “failed to take the steps needed to allow negotiations to begin” and that the P5+1 had “no choice but to return to the UN Security Council and take forward the process that was suspended two months ago” and to seek a resolution that would make the IAEA required suspension mandatory.

President Ahmadinejad stated that Iran was ready for talks but also repeated threats that it might review cooperation with the IAEA as well as adherence to the NPT if the issue was brought back to the Council.

On 20 July, Iran announced it would formally respond to the offer on 22 August. Consultations between the P5+1 on a draft resolution resumed 19 July. The EU3 circulated a new draft on 20 July. In the text, the Council would:

  • express concern about a threat to international peace and security;
  • act under articles 39 and 40 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter;
  • call upon Iran to comply with the last IAEA Board resolution (GOV/2006/14);
  • decide that Iran shall suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities and the construction of a heavy water reactor;
  • endorse the package of incentives;
  • request a report from the IAEA Director General on Iranian compliance with IAEA Board resolutions and with this resolution; and
  • express its intention to adopt further measures under article 41 of the UN charter if Iran does not comply, but underlines that these would be subject to further decisions from the Council.

Some of these elements are still under discussion at press time.

Key Issues
The main issue for the Council is whether Iran will accept that it has more to gain than lose by re-engaging with the IAEA and with the international community.

A second key issue if Iran decides to respond negatively will be the integrity of its NPT commitments.  Withdrawal would escalate the crisis significantly.

The third issue is how to respond in case of an ambiguous response by Iran to the package. Some consider that anything less than full and obvious compliance should result in strong Council action.  Others tend to think that a non-rejection of the proposal should be seen as a window of opportunity for further talks.

A related issue is whether suspension of enrichment should be a condition for moving forward with talks. Iran wants negotiations without “pre-conditions” while the P5+1 want suspension of uranium enrichment as a condition before any talks are held.  It remains to be seen whether there will be flexibility on either side, including willingness to look at phasing of the suspension according to various benchmarks.

A further issue is whether the framework for negotiations might leave open the possibility that Iran would be permitted to conduct some low-level enrichment activities over the longer term (some believe it is unlikely that Iran will ever accept stopping enrichment and research activities completely).

Finally, an issue in the minds of the elected Council members will be what role the Council as a whole should have in overseeing the negotiating process and whether there will be any mechanism for reporting progress.

Council Dynamics
Although Russia and China were initially reluctant to have the Council take up the issue of Iranian nuclear activities, it seems that their positions have evolved following Iran’s refusal to respond promptly to the package of incentives. Russia and China have expressed support for the offer.

There is now a general consensus on the necessity to adopt a resolution making suspension of uranium enrichment mandatory. However, disagreements have arisen on the language to be used. Russia especially is reluctant to adopt language which might subsequently be used as authority for the use of force.  Accordingly, issues in dispute have included:

  • whether there should be a direct reference to an existing threat to international peace and security;
  • whether Chapter VII should be invoked;
  • whether the Council should “decide” on the suspension of uranium enrichment or whether to “demand” that Iran do so would be sufficient; and
  • whether the draft should specify that further measures under article 41 will be automatically considered by the Council if Iran does not comply or whether the Council would work toward the adoption of those measures.

China and Russia still seem to prefer the approach of stepped incremental pressure on Iran.  In contrast, the P3 seem ready to move to the next step of sanctions. The P3 believe that at some point relatively soon all diplomatic means will have been exhausted and that sanctions will be inevitable. This seems to be the view of many other Council members.

The P3 also continue to believe that a full suspension of uranium enrichment activities is absolutely necessary during negotiations to create an atmosphere of trust.

The ten elected Council members remain outside the loop, with varying degrees of discomfort. But there is a sense that the Council will accept whatever the P5 agree.

Most Recent Documents

 Latest IAEA Board Resolution
 Latest IAEA Reports
 Security Council Presidential Statement
 Selected Letters
  • S/2006/521 (13 July 2006) was a letter from France to the President of the Council enclosing the proposals of the P5+1 for a comprehensive long-term arrangement with Iran.
  • S/2006/305 (31 May 2006) was a letter from the League of Arab States to the Secretary-General enclosing a statement issued by Arab leaders on the question of making the Middle East region into a zone free of WMDs.
 Other
  1. Press statement on the P5+1 decision to bring the issue back to the Security Council (12 July 2006)
  2. US -EU Summit Declaration ( 21 June 2006)
  3. IAEA Director-General’s Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors (12 June 2006)
  4. Statement from UK Foreign Secretary on P5 plus Germany’s package of incentives to Iran (1 June 2006).

For Historical Background, Other Relevant Facts and Useful Additional Sources, please refer to our February 2006 Monthly Forecast.

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