May 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2010
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action
The P5 plus Germany are still working on elements for a draft resolution to impose additional sanctions on Iran in response to the country’s non-compliance with IAEA and Council decisions. It seems likely that the Council as a whole will consider the Iran nuclear issue in May.

Key Recent Developments
Discussion of a new sanctions resolution appears to have gained momentum in recent weeks, but it is hard to estimate how quickly agreement can be reached. China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US met on 8 April and have continued to meet on a frequent basis. A draft resolution which would impose further restrictions on Iran’s banking sector and on Iranian shipping, a full arms embargo, measures against members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a ban on new investments in the country’s energy sector seems to be quite far advanced.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano in Vienna on 25 April, as well as Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. An IAEA statement released after the meeting with Amano gave no indication of progress. Spindelegger said that it was up to Iran to restore international trust. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad visited Uganda on 23 April to discuss assistance and investment in Uganda, as well as Iran’s nuclear programme. The visits by Mottaki and Ahmedinejad appeared to be part of an Iranian diplomatic offensive to head off a sanctions resolution by reverting to the possibility of reviving the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) uranium swap deal. (Under an IAEA proposal made last October, Iran would send its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for 20 percent enriched fuel rods to be used in the TRR for medical purposes.)

US Vice President Joseph Biden said on 22 April that he thought a new resolution on Iran would be passed by late April or early May.

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said on 20 April that a negotiated solution to Iran’s disputed nuclear program was still possible but China also continued to participate actively in intensive talks among the P5 on possible new sanctions.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey met with his Iranian counterpart on 20 April as part of Turkey’s efforts to mediate the standoff regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran announced on 19 April it was ready to proceed with the construction of a new uranium enrichment plant.

On 17-18 April, Iran hosted a nuclear conference in Tehran, attended by representatives from about sixty countries, focused in part on the nuclear rights of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories.

Iran wrote to the president of the Council on 13 April asserting that the recently announced US nuclear posture review constituted a threat to Iran. (This followed another letter sent to the Secretary-General in late March that asserted Iran’s commitment to the NPT and cooperation with the IAEA.)

On 12 April, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao met bilaterally at the margins of a US-sponsored summit on global nuclear security in Washington. US officials stated afterward that China had agreed to increase its engagement on a possible new resolution, but a statement by China made no mention of new sanctions.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The report of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council (HRC) that conducted the Universal Periodic Review of Iran was adopted on 17 February. Of the 168 recommendations adopted by the Group, Iran indicated that it supported over 100 of them and had already implemented or was in the process of implementing a further twenty. Iran is examining further several recommendations to which it will provide its responses by the HRC’s fourteenth session, to be held in June 2010. This latter batch of recommendations urges Iran to ratify human rights conventions against torture, bring its legislation into line with those human rights instruments that Iran has already ratified, and take steps to reform discriminatory provisions of penal and civil laws, including with regard to women’s equal rights in marriage and access to justice. Iran withdrew its candidacy for the HRC on 23 April.

Key Issues

A key issue, now that it seems the P5 may be close to agreement on additional sanctions, is the position of the elected members of the Council on the underlying policy issue.

A related issue is the extent to which the full Council is satisfied with the level of consultation offered by the P5 as their discussions have proceeded.

Options

Options for the Council include:

  • adopting a draft resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran in the terms proposed by the P5;
  • establishing a sanctions monitoring group (bearing in mind incidents indicating possible violations of past resolutions); and
  • considering possible amendments to the proposed new sanctions measures that may be proposed by elected members (as occurred in March 2008).

Council and Broader Dynamics

Permanent members appear to be focused on the importance of consulting with the full Council in a more meaningful way than in the past once preliminary agreement is reached among the P5. At press time it seemed as though the P5 were beginning to reach out to some elected members. However, it is less clear how this process will accommodate any drafting changes sought by elected members (E10) and how this will be balanced against the desire of some permanent members for speedy action on a resolution.

Some elected members are concerned that they may only be consulted in a limited fashion once agreement on a draft text has been reached among the P5.

There are also substantive disagreements on the part of several E10 members. Some, including Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey, remain sceptical about the desirability and utility of imposing additional sanctions on Iran. Gabon also seems to have a preference for a negotiated settlement rather than additional sanctions, if possible.

Members are also aware of a number of incongruities in timing. The president of Brazil plans to travel to Iran in mid-May. Some feel this interaction might provide an opportunity to influence Iran, others are sceptical. Timing is also a problem for Lebanon. Many would prefer if possible to avoid placing Lebanon in the position of presiding over a vote on Iran during its May Council presidency, due to the unique domestic issues for Lebanon involving Iran.

Selected UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1887 (24 September 2009) reaffirmed previous resolutions related to Iran’s nuclear activities.
  • S/RES/1835 (27 September 2008) reaffirmed commitment to a negotiated solution within the E3+3 dual-track framework, and called upon Iran to comply with previous Council resolutions.
  • S/RES/1803 (3 March 2008) established a travel ban on some individuals already subject to sanctions, added new names to the list of individuals and entities subject to assets freeze, and expanded the embargo on proliferation-sensitive items.
  • 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 certain items related to nuclear activities and weapon-delivery systems, imposed an asset freeze on certain persons and entities 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 Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6280 (4 March 2010) was the last briefing by the chair of the 1737 Committee.

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/188 (13 April 2010) was a letter from Iran which argued that the US nuclear posture with regard to Iran constituted a threat to international peace and security.
  • S/2010/172 (26 March 2010) asserted Iran’s commitment to the NPT and cooperation with the IAEA.

Latest IAEA Report

Other Relevant Facts

1737 Sanctions Committee Chairman

Yukio Takasu (Japan)

Useful Additional Source

  • James Nixey, “Russian Policy on Iran: Balancing is Best”, The World Today, volume 66, no 5, May 2010

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