Expected Council Action
At press time, the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and its non-compliance with international obligations under resolutions 1696, 1737 and 1747 to suspend uranium enrichment was being discussed among the EU3+3 (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US). It seems unlikely that there will be sufficient agreement for a draft resolution intensifying sanctions against Iran to be introduced in October.
Key Recent Developments
The report of the Director General of the IAEA on implementation of the Non Proliferation Treaty afeguards Agreement in Iran and resolutions 1737 and 1747 was published on 30 August. It covers developments since May 2007 and noted that:
a “work plan” agreed between Iran and the IAEA in order to resolve the outstanding issues was “a significant step forward” (INFCIRC/711);
the IAEA remained unable to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme; and
Iran had not suspended uranium enrichment as requested by the Security Council, but enrichment levels were below what Iran had previously announced.
The IAEA Board met from 10 to 14 September in Vienna. IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei asked Iran to allow wider-ranging inspections and to go beyond the implementation of the agreement to resolve the outstanding issues and suspend uranium enrichment activities. He also reiterated his call for a “double time-out” suspending all enrichment-related activities and sanctions simultaneously in order to create space for negotiations.
Tensions appeared between the US and ElBaradei over his approach to the Iranian nuclear programme. The US seemed concerned that the new work plan’s timetable would provide Iran with more time to build nuclear capability and did not address suspension of uranium enrichment. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the IAEA’s role was not to conduct diplomacy.
Iran strongly supported the work plan approach, stating that it was a proof of its goodwill. During his speech to the UN General Assembly on 25 September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he considered the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as closed and that it had “turned into an ordinary Agency [IAEA] matter”.
An EU3+3 meeting was held in Washington on 21 September. It seems that the political directors were not able to agree on a way forward at either that meeting or a subsequent one in New York. At time of writing a ministerial meeting was planned for New York on 28 September.
On 19 September, the chairman of the Iran Sanctions Committee briefed the Council and said that 81 countries had reported to the Committee on measures taken to implement resolution 1737 and 67 countries had reported on implementation of resolution 1747.
It remains to be seen whether the EU3+3 are prepared to consider any other options, on an interim basis. One possibility might be to present to the Council a draft presidential statement:
welcoming the agreement on the work plan; but
recalling that the plan does not address other confidence building measures previously demanded by the IAEA and made obligatory by Council resolutions;
reaffirming that suspension of uranium enrichment remains a legal obligation on Iran under Council resolutions; and
deciding to revert to the issue in November to review the outcome of the work plan.
A key issue between the US on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other, seems likely to be one of timing-whether to pursue the issue now or wait until the next IAEA Board report due on 22 November which will include information on whether or not Iran has complied with the work plan and satisfactorily resolved questions related to outstanding issues. Non-compliance would provide arguments in favour of additional sanctions.
But another issue, especially for the US, is the growing perception that Iran is getting away with flouting unanimously agreed binding Security Council decisions. This seems to be a factor driving the pressure to force Iran to suspend enrichment activities.
A related issue also seems to be differing interpretations of the status of the confidence-building measures which were originally demanded by the IAEA. (IAEA resolution GOV/2006/14 of 4 February 2006, had requested Iran to implement a series of measures to reestablish confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, because of the history of concealment and the existence of outstanding issues arising from the Agency’s review of declarations made by Iran since September 2002, i.e. the outstanding issues.) But suspension of uranium enrichment was only one of those measures. The full set of confidence-building measures sought was:
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; and
pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol which Iran signed on 18 December 2003.
In practice this also meant implementing transparency measures which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development. But as an IAEA resolution, the measures were not legally binding.
IAEA resolution GOV/2006/14 also reported the matter to the UN Security Council, which then took up the matter. Council resolutions 1696, 1737 and 1747 were actually cast as decisions imposing a legal obligation on Iran to implement the full set of confidence-building measures and resolve the outstanding issues. In this sense, at least as the US and EU3 seem to see it, under the resolution resolving the outstanding issues (i.e. the work plan matters) and implementing the confidence-building measures are two different requirements.
It seems, however, that a view may be emerging by others that because the confidence-building measures were requested because of the existence of the doubts created by the unresolved issues, if the questions about the outstanding issues are resolved, there is no technical need for any of the confidence-building measures. And in this regard, the interpretation of the language in the Council resolutions may also become an issue-given the linkage built into the text between the two aspects.
EU3+3 and Council Dynamics
It seems that Russia and China remain reluctant to proceed with additional sanctions at this stage to avoid compromising the work plan. It remains to be seen whether they believe that its full implementation would in effect close the Iran file at the Security Council.
France, Germany and the UK remain determined to secure compliance with the Council requirements. Although they acknowledge that the work plan is a positive and necessary step, they do not seem satisfied with it. They seem to believe that suspension of enrichment remains a necessary step to build confidence. But they also strongly emphasise that a diplomatic solution remains their preferred outcome and there is a sense that they are less insistent on the need for action in advance of the November report on the work plan outcome.
The US favours further Council action as soon as possible and will be pushing firmly in that direction.
The US and some Europeans, especially France and the UK, seem ready to strengthen measures on a bilateral basis, such as preventing their companies from launching new businesses in Iran and adopting sanctions against the ones that do not respect that. There also seems to be some willingness to strengthen the EU’s current sanctions regime toward Iran, which already goes beyond the Council’s resolutions.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|IAEA Board Resolution|
|Latest IAEA Report|
|Understandings of Iran and the IAEA|