December 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 November 2007
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Expected Council Action
At press time it was unclear whether the E3+3 (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) would introduce a draft resolution with further sanctions against Iran in December. A meeting between the E3+3 political directors to discuss the way forward was expected to take place on 1 December.

The next quarterly briefing by the chairman of the 1737 SanctionsCommittee is expected in mid-December and will likely focus on the Committee’s most recent activities and progress of states’ compliance with resolutions 1737 and 1747.

Key Recent Developments
The E3+3 foreign ministers agreed in a 28 September statement that they would start work on a third Council sanctions resolution if the report from Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, on progress on implementation of the work plan to resolve outstanding issues, and a report of the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, were not positive. This position was reaffirmed at a meeting of the E3+3 in London on 2 November. The ElBaradei report was released on 15 November but at press time Solana’s report was not yet available. It seems that a written report is unlikely. A letter sent to each of them or an oral briefing is more probable.

An E3+3 meeting due to take place on 19 November in Brussels to discuss the way forward was postponed after China was unable to attend. Solana and Jalili were expected to hold another round of talks on 30 November.

In his report on implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement and resolutions 1737 and 1747, ElBaradei noted that Iran provided sufficient access and responded in a timely manner to questions raised. However, his report also noted that:

  • Iran’s cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive;
  • questions about past and current centrifuge enrichment programme and studies have only been answered partially and further information and access were expected in the next few weeks;
  • although the IAEA was able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, its knowledge about the current nuclear programme was diminishing because Iran is no longer implementing the Additional Protocol;
  • Iran has continued to expand its capacity to enrich uranium, and continued construction of a heavy water production plant; and
  • Iran still needed to provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Iran therefore must implement the Additional Protocol as well as all confidence-building measures required by the Security Council, including suspending uranium enrichment.

The report was considered by the IAEA Board meeting in Vienna on 22 November. In his briefing to the Board, ElBaradei noted that implementation of the work plan was proceeding according to schedule. He also said that it was only through negotiations that a comprehensive and durable solution could be reached, and that confidence in the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme could be built.

On 13 November Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited Iran. He urged President Ahmadinejad to halt the uranium enrichment programme in compliance with international demands. He acknowledged Iran’s right to peacefully use nuclear energy and expressed hope that all parties would show flexibility for a peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear issue. This followed a visit to Iran by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 30 October.

If the E3+3 agree to pursue the incremental approach in a new draft sanctions resolution, the Council can:

  • apply a small increment and include additional names to the list of people and entities subject to asset freeze;
  • impose a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the nuclear programme;
  • impose limits on flights by Iranian aircraft;
  • impose targeted sanctions (travel ban and asset freeze) on a wide group of Iranian personnel or entities;
  • toughen current financial sanctions through restricting or even banning export credits to Iran, or banning foreign investment in Iran’s oil and gas industry; and
  • ban additional categories of arms sales to Iran.

In the absence of a draft resolution, the Council could adopt a presidential statement that might:

  • welcome progress on implementation of the work plan;
  • urge Iran to continue to cooperate with the IAEA and provide clarifications on its past and current nuclear activities and implement the Additional Protocol; and
  • recall that the plan does not address other confidence building measures previously demanded by the IAEA and made obligatory by Council resolutions and reiterate those obligations.

Key Issues
A key issue is the interpretation by the E3+3 of ElBaradei and Solana’s reports. France, Germany, the UK and the US have already reacted to ElBaradei’s report saying that more needed to be done by Iran to reestablish confidence. It was unclear at press time whether Russia and China also believed that the failure to suspend uranium enrichment, regardless of progress in the implementation of the work plan, requires further sanctions. A related issue will be the impact of Solana’s report. If he says there has been no progress in talks with Jalili, additional sanctions might be the next step.

This may be complicated though if Solana seeks more time to pursue the talks before rendering a final judgement.

The underlying issue remains reestablishing confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. The existence of concealed Iranian nuclear activities, referred to as “outstanding issues”, originally led to questions about its nuclear programme, but Iran’s refusal to implement IAEA Board and Security Council requirements—in particular, to suspend uranium enrichment—led to further suspicion.

Finally, if the E3+3 agree on the need for a third Council resolution, following the incremental pressure approach, a residual issue of interest to the ten elected members will be whether the sanctions would actually have the desired impact on Iran, and if not, what additional measures might be expected.

Council Dynamics
The US, the UK, France and Germany all described the ElBaradei report as not encouraging and said that they would seek additional sanctions.

China seems to consider that the ElBaradei report is objective and balanced and that the initial progress achieved towards resolving the outstanding issues should be recognised. China also seems to prefer to wait for the next round of talks between Solana and Jalili before deciding on the way forward.

South Africa continues to consider that any response by the Council needs to take into account the positive developments regarding outstanding issues. Although South Africa is concerned about the lack of progress on transparency and suspension questions, it believes that resolving the outstanding issues contributes to reestablishing confidence and therefore the Council should be balanced so as not to jeopardise further progress. South Africa does not oppose additional sanctions further down the track but believes that they should be proportional, incremental and reversible. South Africa continues to favour that a diplomatic solution should be pursued, and is opposed to sanctions that are not strictly non-proliferation related. Indonesia and Qatar hold similar views.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1747 (24 March 2007) imposed additional measures against Iran and reinforced 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 reestablish confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme and reported the issue to the Security Council.

Latest IAEA Report

Understandings of Iran and the IAEA

Useful Additional Sources

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