June 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2007
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to adopt a resolution further expanding sanctions against Iran, in light of the 23 May report of the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei that Iran had not complied with resolution 1747.

The 1737 Sanctions Committee is also expected to submit a report on its activities, followed by a briefing around 21 June.

Key Recent Developments
The EU3+3 (France, Germany, the UK and China, Russia and the US) met in London on 2 May and Berlin on 10 May to determine the way forward and prepare a common position ahead of the next IAEA report. They reaffirmed that a negotiated solution was their goal but agreed to start work on a third resolution imposing additional sanctions if, as seemed likely, the IAEA would report non compliance.

The second round of talks between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, scheduled in Switzerland in mid-May, was postponed to 31 May in Berlin. The initial round had concluded with some hints of possible progress.  However, Larijani announced on 14 May that suspension of uranium enrichment would not be negotiated.

On 15 May, ElBaradei told the media that Iran’s progress in enriching uranium meant that it was unrealistic to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear expertise. For him, “the purpose of suspension-keeping them from getting the knowledge-has been overtaken by events.” It would be more useful to restrict enrichment short of an industrial scale rather than try to freeze it altogether, he said.

These remarks were sharply criticised by the US and its European allies. They said that letting Iran operate a small number of centrifuges was out of the question.

The 23 May IAEA report on implementation of the  Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement and Council resolutions in Iran concluded that:

  • Iran had not complied with resolutions 1737 and 1747 requiring suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and work on all heavy water-related projects;
  • Iran was operating eight cascades of 164 centrifuges at an underground site in Natanz, producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, and it was in the process of installing five more; and
  • The IAEA’s ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear programme had deteriorated.

By 16 May, 67 countries had submitted reports to the Sanctions Committee on steps taken to implement resolution 1737. Some also submitted reports on implementing resolution 1747, although this is not mandatory.

In the run-up to the 2010 Review Conference of the NPT, the first of three Preparatory Committee sessions took place in Vienna from 30 April to 11 May. Participants considered substantive and procedural issues to strengthen implementing the NPT. Germany suggested building a uranium enrichment facility run by the IAEA so that all interested states have access to nuclear fuel for energy generation, while reducing the risk of weapons proliferation.

Options
A third resolution following the logic of incremental pressure seems to be the main option if the Solana-Larijani meeting fails to produce positive results. The resolution could:

  • replace “calls upon” with “decide” in several provisions;
  • impose a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the nuclear programme;
  • include additional names in the list of people and entities subject to asset freeze;
  • toughen current financial sanctions through restricting or even banning export credits to Iran;
  • ban certain arms sales to Iran; and
  • request the IAEA Director-General to report to the Council again within sixty days.

A further option for the Council is to delay action if Solana and Larijani make some progress in a positive direction.

Key Issues
A key issue is how much longer the incremental pressure approach will be viable, and whether it will convince Iran to suspend enrichment. For many-including the US and the Europeans-the core issue remains the lack of confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Members are mindful, though, of the equally important issue of keeping the doors of negotiation open even if the next Solana-Larijani meeting fails.

Council Dynamics
The EU3 and the US seem determined to prepare a third resolution toughening sanctions. They remain convinced this is the best approach. While sanctions have some impact on Iran’s economy and on the degree of internal support for the regime, they sense, more importantly, a building groundswell of international opinion generated by cohesion within the Council which is likely to have an impact in Tehran. For them, suspending uranium enrichment is an incontrovertible measure to rebuild confidence. Consequently, they oppose the ElBaradei alternative because, by definition, it requires trust in Iran’s good faith. The new French President Nicolas Sarkozy appears more supportive of sanctions than his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

The EU3+3 will probably wait for the Solana-Larijani meeting and for the G8 meeting scheduled for 6-8 June before tabling a resolution.

An important challenge will be finding a balance between a credible increment and the need for unanimity. Russia and China will want more graduated steps.  Some elected members remain sceptical about the EU3+3 approach, especially Indonesia and South Africa who, while concerned about Iran’s behaviour, believe that negotiations are the best way to solve the crisis, and that preconditions should be avoided.
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Underlying Problems
Tensions between the US and Iran are increasing with more arrests and detentions of Iranian-American scholars in Iran. The US moved two aircraft carriers and seven other ships into the Persian Gulf in a show of force.

The financial sector seems to be increasingly reluctant to do business with Iran because of restrictions on trade of proliferation sensitive and ballistic equipment stipulated in resolution 1737, the call upon states and international institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance and loans to Iran stipulated in resolution 1747 and bilateral initiatives from the EU and the US.

Selected Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1747  (24 March 2007) imposed additional measures against Iran and reinforced the existing ones.
  • S/RES/1737  (23 December 2006) imposed measures against Iran under Chapter VII, article 41, of the UN Charter and expressed its intention to adopt further measures under article 41 in case of Iranian non-compliance.
  • S/RES/1696  (31 July 2006) demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and expressed its intention to adopt measures under article 41 in case of Iranian non-compliance.
 Latest IAEA Board Resolution
  1. 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.
 Latest IAEA Report
  • The circulation of the 23 May report is currently restricted and will be considered at the IAEA Board of Directors 11 June meeting.
 Iran Reports to the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT

Useful Additional Sources

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