February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
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Expected Council Action
At time of writing, elements of a third resolution on sanctions against Iran were being shared in bilateral meetings with the elected members of the Council. This process makes it likely that formal discussion in the Council will be in February.

Key Recent Developments
Mohammed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, in late November reported that there were no new developments regarding suspension of uranium enrichment. Talks between EU envoy Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Said Jalili failed and have not resumed.

The E3 plus 3 (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on 22 January agreed on elements for a new resolution. The draft seems to be a moderate incremental step. It seems to focus on the existing measures (perhaps adding names of individuals and entities to the list of targeted sanctions and imposing a travel ban), but a major focus is also the need for the UN as a whole to exercise vigilance. It also seems to refer to the IAEA/Iran work plan and welcome the contribution this would make to resolving all outstanding issues and reestablishing confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Finally it seems that the draft also contains encouragement to continue the talks between Solana and Jalili.

It seems that the delay in the presentation of a new resolution reflects a lower sense of urgency triggered by the December 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report (see our January 2008 Forecast for details).

Tensions between Iran and the US continued. On 6 January, a naval incident occurred in the Strait of Hormuz. The White House warned Iran that its action was provocative and dangerous. Iran accused the US of orchestrating a propaganda campaign.

ElBaradei visited Iran on 11 and 12 January and met Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran and the IAEA agreed that implementation of all remaining verification issues specified in the August 2007 work plan for resolving outstanding issues would be completed by 13 February.

The Council could adopt the resolution as presented.

Another option might be to give more emphasis to the “dual track” aspects and call for renewed negotiations. In this regard:

  • if the P5 are reluctant to see changes in the resolution itself, additional elements of interest to elected members could be inserted in a separate presidential statement (as the Council routinely does every six months on the Golan Heights issue—with a resolution on UN Disengagement Observer Force and a presidential statement on the wider political context); and
  • the Secretary-General could be requested to designate an envoy tasked to conduct talks with Iran perhaps working with the EU envoy Javier Solana and brief the Council.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether any elected members will push to delay the resolution pending the outcome of the IAEA work plan process.

An underlying issue stems from the fact that the NIE report seems to have led to renewed questioning of the appropriateness of the Council’s role on the Iranian nuclear issue at this stage. It is unclear to what extent this may raise significant domestic political problems for some elected members.

Council Dynamics
It seems that the P5 are willing to allow some time for discussions on the draft. They are likely to resist amendments especially if they undercut the substance of the draft which is already a result of several months of negotiations. However, many elected members in the past have expressed frustration for not being able to contribute to the substance.

Some elected members are expected to have strong reservations about the draft. Libya has difficulties in principle with sanctions regimes—given its own experience—and is likely to prefer that the Council not take up a new resolution. Libya seems to prefer that direct negotiations to resolve the crisis be a major part of the mix and seems to believe that additional sanctions could make things worse. Indonesia seems concerned that the timing of a third resolution is not appropriate since the work plan is about to be completed, and may fear that additional sanctions could hamper that process. Indonesia also seems to doubt that there is a real threat to international peace and security because there is no proof that Iran is developing a military nuclear programme and, in any case, it has the right to enrich uranium. South Africa in the past shared this approach.

It remains to be seen whether the mildness of the resolution—its focus on vigilance rather than enforcement, and the references to progress in the implementation of the IAEA work plan and emphasis on negotiations—will lead to some of these concerns being muted and any proposals to amend the resolution being relatively moderate.

There seems to be consensus in the Council on the need for Iran to re-establish confidence in the peaceful nature of its past and current nuclear programme and to allow more transparency. Everyone seems to believe that Iran should ratify and implement the additional protocol.

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.
  • S/RES/1696 (31 July 2006) demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

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

IAEA/Iran Work Plan

Latest Letters

  • S/2007/780 (31 December 2007) was a letter from the chairman of the 1737 Sanctions Committee transmitting a report covering the activities of the Committee from 23 December 2006 to 31 December 2007.
  • S/2007/765 (28 December 2007) was a letter from Iran reacting to the NIE report.

Useful Additional Sources
IAEA press release, “IAEA Chief Concludes Visit to Iran,” 13 January 2008
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