September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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Expected Council Action
The E3+3 countries (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) have been discussing further sanctions against Iran in light of its ongoing noncompliance with Council demands to stop uranium enrichment. However, recent events in Georgia have created tensions between Russia on the one hand and the US and the Europeans. The tensions seem likely to slow down discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The September general debate of the General Assembly in New York is likely to provide an opportunity for the E3+3 to hold high-level meetings on Iran’s nuclear programme. This year the debate will be held from 23 September to 1 October.

At press time, it was unclear whether there would be any major development on the Iran nuclear issue in September. A report and a briefing by the chairman of the 1737 Sanctions Committee is due in September. (The Committee was established under resolution 1737, which in December 2006 imposed Chapter VII measures against Iran not involving the use of armed force.)

Key Recent Developments
Javier Solana, the EU Foreign Policy Chief and E3+3 representative, on 14 June travelled to Iran with representatives from the E3 (France, Germany and the UK) and from China and Russia to present Iran a new offer for negotiations. This new proposal reinforced the 2006 E3+3 package of incentives by adding new political and economic measures such as improvement of direct dialogue between the E3+3 and Iran, promotion of cooperation (in particular on Afghanistan and drug trafficking) and of Iran’s constructive role in international affairs, reaffirmation of the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and of the prohibition against the threat or use of force in international relations. Other measures included assistance to Iran for economic, social and human development projects (education and emergency response capabilities in particular). The E3+3 also proposed to establish a joint monitoring group for the implementation of a future agreement. In addition to this proposal, Solana submitted a paper outlining the way forward, which would include three steps:

  1. a preliminary period of talks between Solana and the Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili;
  2. a maximum six-week pre-negotiation phase during which Iran would not increase its number of centrifuges and the E3+3 would not adopt any new sanctions—a “double freeze” period that would allow some talks to take place in the absence of uranium enrichment suspension; and
  3. formal negotiations within the framework of “double suspension” involving Iran suspending its sensitive nuclear activities (including uranium enrichment) and the Council suspending its sanctions.

On 15 July, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran was ready to open comprehensive negotiations but that it would never accept preconditions.

On 19 July, Solana and representatives of the E3+3 met with Jalili in Geneva to discuss this revised package. Jalili introduced a proposal setting modalities for starting negotiations, but this did not include any movement on the “freeze” of “suspension” issues. It seems that Jalili sought to concentrate on common ground between the Iranian proposal for negotiations on long-term cooperation in the political, security, economic and nuclear fields made in May, and the E3+3 proposal. (Those common points include launching a dialogue between Iran and the E3+3, cooperation on regional security issues and drug trafficking, and cooperation on trade, investment and the provision of energy, including nuclear energy.) The decision to ignore the key issues of freeze and suspension led the E3+3 to ask Jalili to provide a clearer answer to their proposal within two weeks.

On 5 August, Iran said that it was ready to provide an answer if the E3+3 presented their position on Iran’s proposal in May. (The E3+3 never formally responded to it.) The US described this answer as a “stalling tactic” while the UK, France and Germany expressed disappointment at what they saw as a negation of their proposal. Accordingly, on 7 August the E3+3 agreed to consider further sanctions against Iran. Despite the breakdown of discussions on the E3+3 proposal, Jalili and Solana on 11 August agreed in a telephone conversation to continue talks.

On 28 July, President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran now possessed between 5,000 and 6,000 nuclear centrifuges, almost twice what it disclosed in April 2007.

A rise in tensions between Iran and the US was also visible on 9 and 10 July when Iran conducted ballistic missile tests. In response the US said it was ready to defend its allies in the region if they are attacked.

On 8 August, the EU amended its common position implementing Security Council sanctions against Iran. The new amendments slightly extended sanctions in resolution 1803 by calling on the EU’s financial institutions to exercise “restraint” (not just vigilance) on export credits, and decreeing that EU member states inspect Iran-bound cargoes.

On 13 June, the chairman of the 1737 Sanctions Committee, Belgian Ambassador Jan Grauls, briefed the Council on the activities of the Committee in the previous three months. He said that to date, 89 country reports were submitted to the Committee under resolution 1737 of 2006, 76 reports under resolution 1747 of 2007 and 51 reports under resolution 1803 of 2008. (Resolution 1803 requested states to submit implementation reports by 2 May.)

During the briefing, France indicated that Iran had been in violation of resolution 1803 since 3 June as the resolution gave Iran three months to comply and the IAEA reported on non-compliance. The UK said that three steps were still required of Iran to re-establish confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme: suspension of uranium enrichment activities, implementation of the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty granting special access to sensible sites for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and resolving all past outstanding issues of concern for the IAEA. The US said that the Council should stand ready to adopt additional measures against Iran.

Key Issues
The main issue for the Council at this stage is whether the E3+3 will find a common position on another round of sanctions against Iran in the coming weeks.

A related issue in the minds of some Council members is whether there is much appetite to give to the diplomatic track significantly more time. Iran has repeatedly indicated its refusal to accept preconditions for negotiations and has not complied with the previous four Council resolutions.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Although the E3+3 seem to agree on the need to continue the dual-track approach of increasing pressure while seeking a diplomatic solution, divisions seem to be deepening regarding the immediate way forward. For Russia and China, Iran’s proposal in May and that of the E3+3 in June have similarities on the basis of which a dialogue could be initiated. The Russians and Chinese also seem to hold the view that there should be more flexibility on the condition of suspension of uranium enrichment for beginning substantive discussions. They seem to believe that the current diplomatic track still has a chance to produce results.

France and the UK seem eager for the Council to adopt enhanced sanctions quickly. Germany and the US seem to believe that the timing is not ideal for adopting further sanctions at this stage even though they also considered Iran’s answer to the E3+3 proposal as unacceptable.

The US showed important flexibility by having a representative attend the talks with Jalili in Geneva on 19 July. The US also accepted a “pre-negotiation period” which would only require Iran to stop expanding its enrichment capacity but not suspend it completely.

Following its ministerial conference in Tehran from 27 to 30 July 2008, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) made a statement on Iran’s nuclear issue reaffirming the right of all states to develop production and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and stressing that Iran’s choice must therefore be respected. It welcomed positive developments in cooperation between the IAEA and Iran, and said the only way to resolve the current nuclear issue is to pursue substantive negotiations without preconditions among all relevant parties. This outcome is likely to be reflected in positions of NAM members on the Council.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1803 (3 March 2008) imposed additional measures against Iran and reinforced existing ones.
  • 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 (measures not involving the use of armed force).
  • S/RES/1696 (31 July 2006) demanded that Iran implement steps required by the IAEA to re-establish confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme and, in this context, suspend uranium enrichment activities.

Latest IAEA Board Resolution

  • GOV/2006/14 (4 February 2006) underlined necessary steps that Iran should take to re-establish international confidence in its nuclear programme and reported the issue to the Council.

Latest IAEA Report

Latest IAEA Information Circulars

  • INFCIRC/733 (1 August 2008) was the statement on Iran’s nuclear issue adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Conference in Tehran.
  • INFCIRC/729 (16 June 2008) was Iran’s proposed package in May for constructive negotiation.

Selected Letters

  • S/2008/554 (15 August 2008) was a letter from Iran reiterating that its nuclear programme is peaceful, that all ambiguities regarding its nuclear activities have been removed and that, therefore, there is no ground for placing this issue on the Council’s agenda; the letter also rejected accusations that some Iranian banks have been involved in financing related to nuclear proliferation and terrorism activities.
  • S/2008/520 (1 August 2008) was a letter from France, the UK and the US providing information on overseas branches and subsidiaries of Bank Melli and Bank Saderat so that states can exercise vigiliance over the activities of these Iranian banks in their territories in conformity with resolution 1803.
  • S/2008/482 (22 July 2008) was a letter from Israel calling on the international community to address the threats posed by the emergence of a nuclear Iran, and alleging that Iran is a regional source of instability and extremism that exports terrorism by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • S/2008/397 (17 June 2008) was a letter from Iran enclosing Iran’s 13 May proposed package for constructive negotiation with the E3+3.
  • S/2008/393 (16 June 2008) was a letter from the UK enclosing the E3+3’s 12 June letter to Iran and revised package of proposals for possible areas of cooperation.
  • S/2008/377 (6 June 2008) was a letter from Iran protesting Israeli threats of resorting to use force against Iran.
  • S/2006/521 (13 July 2006) was the 2006 E3+3 proposal for a comprehensive long-term arrangement with Iran.

Selected Records of Council Meetings

  • S/PV.5909 (13 June 2008) was the latest briefing by the chairman of the 1737 Sanctions Committee.

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast

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