September 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 August 2007
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action
Council action on Iran in September seems unlikely. However, senior officers from the EU3+3 (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) may discuss Iran in New York in late September during the high-level section of the UN General Assembly in order to define a common position on the way forward regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. The US and the Europeans seem to remain convinced that it is necessary to move toward a new Council resolution imposing further sanctions against Iran for its non-compliance with previous resolutions.

A briefing on the activities of the 1737 Sanctions Committee is also likely in informal consultations in mid-September.

In mid-September the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will convene. An assessment of the recent work of the Agency’s inspectors in Iran, to be included in a report by the Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei to the Board, will be awaited with interest by Council members. (A list of the outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA is included below.)

Key Recent Developments
The IAEA reported in May that Iran had not complied with its obligations regarding the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities. However, the Council has preferred to wait until there was a clearer outcome from the discussions between the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and the Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani. It seems at this point, however, that the talks are stalled. 

On 22 June, on a separate track, ElBaradei and Larijani met in Vienna. They agreed to draw up an action plan for resolving the outstanding issues between the IAEA and Iran. The plan was prepared during an IAEA visit to Iran on 11 and 12 July, and on 31 July IAEA inspectors visited Iran’s Arak research nuclear reactor which is designed for producing plutonium. On 20 and 21 August, another round of talks was held between the IAEA and Iranian officials in Tehran. A timetable and modalities for Iran to respond to questions about its nuclear activities and to provide for more effective inspections of facilities was agreed.

On 21 August, Iran released on bail the Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari who had been arrested in May in Iran on espionage charges.

Tensions between the US and Iran remain despite another meeting between the US and Iranian ambassadors to Baghdad on 24 July focusing on Iraq’s security situation. The US administration seems to be adopting a more confrontational approach, perhaps reflecting frustration at the current situation. On 31 July, an arms deal was signed between the US and various Arab allies. US officials have said that one goal was to counter the growing power of Iran. On 15 August, the US administration decided to proceed with the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation.

Meanwhile, following a strong lobbying campaign by the US Treasury, more banks (such as Deutsche Bank on 31 July) have announced their decision to cease doing business involving Iran.

Options
The EU3+3 may discuss US proposals for a new resolution toughening sanctions-following the logic of incremental pressure. But it seems unlikely that any draft would be ready to share with the rest of the Council in September.

Key Issues
The main issue is whether or not to proceed with additional sanctions against Iran. On the one hand, the agreement between the IAEA and Iran does not address the issue of suspension of uranium-enrichment-which the Council has demanded. On the other hand, the IAEA track does have the potential to address some of the other underlying issues. It is unclear whether ElBaradei’s report will be able to persuade the P3 (France, the UK and the US) that the agreement is a satisfactory alternative that has the potential over time to build confidence that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.

Council Dynamics
The US, the UK and France seem unconvinced about the IAEA track and seem convinced that it is essential to toughen UN sanctions against Iran. They consider that Iran is in breach of its obligations and that because the suspension of uranium enrichment is not included in the recent agreement with the IAEA, the agreement does not take the issue forward.

Russia and China, on the other hand, seem very reluctant to move in the direction of new sanctions. China recently reiterated that it still considers diplomacy as the best way to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and that the recent agreement with the IAEA does represent a useful step forward. It seems that both countries believe that it would be unwise to risk jeopardising the progress which has been achieved.

South Africa also seems to believe that additional sanctions would increase tensions. Although it seems to accept that steps to encourage Iran to comply with its international obligations may be appropriate at some time, it still believes that diplomacy is currently the right choice and that it is necessary to deescalate political tensions to encourage a negotiated solution.

UN 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
  • 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
  • GOV/2007/22  (23 May 2007) noting that Iran had not complied with resolution 1747.
 Understandings of Iran and the IAEA
 Selected Letters
  • S/2007/378 (21 June 2007) was a letter from Iran rejecting allegations made by Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, implicating Iran in terrorist attacks.

 

Other Relevant Facts

 Measures requested by the IAEA to re-establish confidence
  • Full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development.
  • Reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water.
  • Ratify and implement in full the Additional Protocol.
  • Pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol which Iran signed on 18 December 2003.
  • Implement transparency measures which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.
 Current Outstanding Issues (to be resolved according the agreement)
  • Enrichment Programme at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant
  • Heavy water research reactor in Arak
  • Designation of new IAEA inspectors and granting of multiple entry visas for them
 Past Outstanding Issues (questions resolved in July 2007)
  • Clarification about Iran’s plutonium separation experiments. The depleted uranium targets which had been irradiated in the course of the plutonium experiments are stored in containers. On 8 August 2005, the Agency had taken environmental samples and discovered the presence of high enriched uranium particles.
  • Iran’s acquisition of P-1 and P-2 centrifuge technology.
  • Clarification about the particles of high enriched uranium found in samples taken from equipment at a technical university in Tehran in January 2006, and about Iran’s statement that they are of foreign origin.
  • Documentation concerning uranium metal and its casting (allegedly provided to Iran by the AQ Khan network).

Useful Additional Sources

  • The Iranian Nuclear Challenge, Address by Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, to the Greens/European Free Alliance Conference on Iran: Alternatives to Escalation, European Parliament, Brussels, 4 July 2007

 

Full forecast

 

Sign up for SCR emails