December 2006 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action
It remains unclear when the draft resolution currently being considered by the P5 plus Germany (P5+1) will be formally presented to the Council. This draft resolution would impose sanctions against Iran because of its non-compliance with resolution 1696, which demands that Iran suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

Key Recent Developments
On 24 October, the EU3 (France, Germany and the UK) presented a draft resolution to the P5. The draft envisages the Council:

While the US had been consulted about the draft, it seems that the US has not endorsed it, preferring more extensive and more punitive sanctions. On 3 November, Russia proposed major amendments removing many of the sanctions’ measures, leaving only prohibitions on nuclear and ballistic items that could be used for Iran’s nuclear programme.

Russia’s amendments seem to assume that the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and the voluntary Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) will be effective to prevent the sale and supply to Iran of items, materials, goods and technologies related to nuclear and ballistic programmes. Russia rejected provisions for travel bans, asset freezes and training prohibitions, as well as restrictions on the Bushehr project. China supported Russia’s amendments.

The ten elected members of the Council were briefed with copies of the draft resolution on 7 November.

Several P5+1 expert meetings followed without reaching any result. At press time the issue is back to the EU3 capitals and political directors are considering a way to break the deadlock. Russia does not seem ready to abandon its amendments.

On 15 November, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submitted his latest report to the Board of Governors on the Implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty  Safeguards Agreement in Iran, focusing on Iran’s activities since 31 August. The report noted that enrichment related activities have continued, that there are still traces of unexplained plutonium in Iran and that Iran had not provided the Agency with full access to the pilot fuel enrichment plant. The report was considered by the IAEA Board’s regular meeting on 23 and 24 November. 

At press time, the options seem to be:

Key Issues
The main issue is whether the P5 can regain what was previously thought to be a consensus on the measures which would follow if Iran rejected resolution 1696. Confusion seems to have arisen on interpretation of previous P5+1 understanding. The EU3 and the US consider that they already extended the timeline for compliance with resolution 1696 and took extraordinary steps to explore ways of initiating diplomatic negotiations. But in the end, they felt that the Iranian position, not only on suspension or enrichment, was just too negative. They therefore see no alternative to the threat of sanctions. Russia and China still favour an incremental approach, and stand ready to adopt measures as long as they remain reasonable, proportional and gradual.

A related issue is timing. Iran claims it is accelerating its acquisition of nuclear capabilities. Also the Council’s new composition in January is perhaps a factor that will influence timing. The presence of more Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries (with Panama and Indonesia replacing Argentina and Japan, non-NAM members) may have some impact, as might the presence of South Africa, a strong player on this issue in discussions at the IAEA. However, the impact may possibly be limited, since the elected ten members are effectively not involved in the P5+1 discussions on the issue.

A major issue, at the time of writing, is how the current deadlock can be broken. The P5+1 have to decide whether the issue should now be discussed at the ministerial level of the “EU3 + 3” (EU3 plus the US, Russia and China), or whether it should remain among political directors. It seems that at this stage little more can be achieved in New York.

Council Dynamics
Russia argues that the EU3 draft appeared not to match positions agreed among the P5+1 foreign ministers in Paris in July 2006. Russia’s commercial interests in Iran may also explain its preference for approaching a sanctions regime more gradually.

For its part, the US appears to want to further toughen the draft resolution, for instance by including a provision that Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose a threat to international peace and security.

Because the US and the Russian-Chinese positions are at the opposite side of the spectrum, the EU3 were expected to play a balancing role-although, in practice, their position tends to be closer to the US. However, there seems to be much uncertainty among the EU3 on the way to proceed.

Doubts about US intentions have also contributed to the confusion. At this stage, it is uncertain whether the US will be pushing for a vote before the end of the year, risking a Russian veto.

Underlying Problems
In the past weeks, commentators have been suggesting that the US should engage directly with Iran on a variety of issues. Indeed, some see Iranian links to US interests in Iraq and in Lebanon and suggest that discussion with Iran would help. Others see little prospect that this would help achieve a solution on Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA oversight of Iran’s nuclear activities has considerably decreased. Iran succeeded in building two cascades of 164 centrifuges each for uranium enrichment, which could be used to make nuclear fuel or, in much higher grades, the core of an atom bomb. Iran has also stated its intention to install another 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment by March 2007.

Most Recent Documents

 Security Council Resolution
  • S/RES/1696 (31 July 2006)  demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, requested a report from the IAEA and expressed its intention to adopt measures under article 41 of the UN charter in case of Iranian non-compliance.
 Security Council Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2006/15 (29 March 2006) called upon Iran to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors, in particular full suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing  activities, in order to build confidence in the peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme.
 Last IAEA Board Resolution
  • GOV/2006/14 (4 February 2006) underlined the necessary steps that Iran should take to re-establish confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme and reported the issue to the Security Council.
 Last IAEA Report
  • GOV/2006/64 (14 November 2006) noted that enrichment related activities have continued in violation of previous IAEA Board resolutions and Security Council resolution 1696.
 Selected Letters
  • S/2006/815 (13 October 2006) was the letter from France containing the NSG list of items, material, equipments, goods and technology related to ballistic missiles programmes.
  • S/2006/814 (13 October 2006) was the letter from France containing the MTCR list of items, material, equipments, goods and technology related to nuclear programmes.
  • S/2006/806 (11 October 2006) was the letter from Iran transmitting its response to the EU3+3 June package of proposals.
  • S/2006/521 (13 July 2006) was the letter from France to the president of the Council enclosing the proposals of the EU3+3 for a comprehensive long-term arrangement with Iran.

Useful Additional Sources

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Established in 1975, the NSG consists of 45 nuclear supplier states (including China, Russia, and the United States) that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states. The NSG aims to prevent nuclear exports for commercial and peaceful purposes from being used to make nuclear weapons. NSG members are expected to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not subject themselves to international measures and inspections designed to provide confidence that their nuclear imports are not used to develop nuclear arms. The NSG has two sets of guidelines listing the specific nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies that are subject to export controls.

Missile Technology Control Regime

Established in April 1987, the voluntary MTCR aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The regime urges its 34 members, which include most of the world’s key missile manufacturers, to restrict their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometres or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.

For historical background and other relevant facts, please refer to our February 2006 Monthly Forecast.

Full forecast