February 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2010
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action
It is unclear whether the Council will consider the Iran nuclear issue during February. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US continue to discuss further steps in response to Iran’s non-compliance with IAEA and Council decisions and apparent rejection of the compromise October offer to send its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment, in return for fuel rods to be used in the Tehran Research Reactor for medical purposes. France, the UK and the US seem to be actively pushing for further sanctions.

Key Recent Developments
Tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme have escalated in recent months. On 27 November 2009 the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution expressing concern at Iran’s continued defiance of IAEA and Council demands and at its failure to notify the IAEA of the planned new enrichment facility at Qom. The resolution urged Iran to comply with all its international legal obligations (including by suspending immediately construction at Qom), and to engage with the IAEA on all outstanding issues (including by clarifying all aspects of the Qom facility). It also called on Iran to comply with its safeguards obligations and implement and ratify the additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Twenty-five of the 35 Board members, including China and Russia, voted in favour of the resolution, the first adopted on Iran since 2006.

On 29 November 2009 Iran said it had approved construction of ten additional uranium enrichment plants. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on 2 December 2009 that Iran would enrich uranium to a higher level itself, apparently rejecting the October IAEA proposal and taking off the table earlier conditional counterproposals.

On 10 December 2009 the chairman of the Iran Sanctions Committee, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu briefed the Council. (The Committee is required to report to the Council every ninety days.) Takasu confirmed that the Committee had received reports from three states of violations by Iran of the provisions of resolution 1747 imposing an export ban on arms and related materials. The violations involved the vessels MV Hansa India and Francop, both chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. (According to media reports the German owned MV Hansa India was intercepted in October 2009, apparently on its way to Syria. And in a 5 November letter, Israel informed the Committee that it had discovered hundreds of tonnes of arms aboard the Francop, also on its way to Syria.)

On 2 January, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki set a deadline of one month for Iran’s international counterparts to accept its position on the October 2009 offer or it would start further enrichment itself. On 20 January there were reports that Iran had sent a formal response to the IAEA, essentially confirming what it had already said publicly.

On 16 January the P5 plus Germany met in New York to discuss next steps. (Their previous meeting was held on 20 November.) The Chinese political director did not attend, but China was represented by a diplomat from its UN mission. The chair of the meeting, EU’s political director Robert Cooper, said in an agreed statement that the six countries had concluded that Iran’s response was “inadequate”. While they remained committed to a dual-track approach involving a negotiated solution, “consideration of appropriate further measures” had begun.

Human Rights-Related Developments
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a statement on 30 December 2009 expressing shock at violence that had led to deaths and injuries in Iran, and called on the Iranian government to curb excesses by security forces. She also expressed concern about continuing reports of arrests of political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors. Pillay said, “Those who have been arrested, for whatever reason, must be accorded due process that is fully in line with international human rights standards and norms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Universal Periodic Review of Iran’s human rights record by the Human Rights Council is scheduled for 15 February.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council as a whole is its continued position on the sidelines of the P5+1 discussion, waiting either for the diplomatic track to yield results or to start discussions on additional measures against Iran.

A further issue, if the P5 agree on submitting a new draft sanctions resolution, is what kinds of additional measures should be imposed.

A related issue is whether the Council should address reported violations of the weapons export ban on Iran as a distinct issue.

Options
As has been the case in the past, it seems that the Council as a whole will have few options on Iran other than those that may be agreed by the P5. At this time options may include:

  • continuing to wait on the sidelines in the hope that progress on the Iran nuclear issue may still occur in the context of the P5+1 negotiations;
  • taking action on any P5 draft resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran which could include additional measures against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a full arms embargo, or measures targeting the country’s petroleum industry or financial sector;
  • establishing a sanctions monitoring group in response to the recent incidents indicating violations of existing sanctions; and
  • pressing the P5 for a more inclusive process which could include an orientation discussion in informal consultations.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Within the P5, divisions remain on the best approach on Iran. France, the UK and the US now support prompt action on further sanctions.

China seems to maintain that further dialogue might be productive and that there is still space for further negotiations with Iran. It is therefore not the right moment for sanctions. However, China agreed to the joint statement from the January meeting which began a process to discuss additional measures.

Russia does not seem to rule out additional sanctions. It seems to have been particularly concerned at the revelation of the Qom enrichment facility, as well as Iran’s rejection of the IAEA October 2009 proposal which it saw as a fair compromise. In a statement on 22 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia wanted to see “constructive actions” from Iran.

Some elected Council members seem sceptical about the utility of further sanctions at this stage. There are also concerns about the impact of increased international pressure on the fragile internal situation in Iran.

Brazil and Turkey both abstained when the 27 November 2009 resolution on Iran was adopted in the IAEA and believe there is still room for further negotiations on the basis of the October offer. They have both engaged bilaterally with Iran. Lebanon is also concerned about premature Council action.

Many elected members also seem concerned about the failure of the P5 to consult with them collectively as Council members in the process.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1835 (27 September 2008) reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and called upon Iran to comply with its obligations under previous Council resolutions and IAEA requirements.
  • S/RES/1803 (3 March 2008) reiterated existing measures against Iran and imposed additional ones.
  • S/RES/1747 (24 March 2007) established a ban on Iran’s arms exports and added names to the list of people and entities subject to assets freeze.
  • S/RES/1737 (23 December 2006) banned trade with Iran of items related to nuclear enrichment, reprocessing, heavy water activities and nuclear weapon delivery systems, imposed an asset freeze on a list of persons and entities involved in proliferation-sensitive activities and established a sanctions committee.
  • S/RES/1696 (31 July 2006) demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA.

Selected Letters

  • S/2009/633 (7 December 2009) was from the Secretary-General to the Council conveying the resolution on Iran adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors on 27 November 2009.
  • S/2009/574 (5 November 2009) was from Israel to the Secretary-General and the Council relating to violations of resolution 1747.

Other

  • S/PV.6235 (10 December 2009) was the latest briefing by the chair of the 1737 Committee.
  • GOV/2009/74 (16 November 2009) was the latest IAEA report.

Other Relevant Facts

Chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee

Yukio Takasu (Japan)

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