September 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 25 August 2010
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Expected Council Action
A briefing from the chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee on Iran is expected in September. A report from the IAEA on Iran’s compliance with Council resolutions is also expected. No Council action was expected at time of writing. However, issues relating to Iran seem likely to arise in various informal meetings during the high-level General Assembly week in September.

Key Recent Developments
On 9 June the Council approved resolution 1929 which strengthened sanctions against Iran. The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to establish a panel of experts for a period of one year to assist the 1737 Committee carry out its work. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was requested to report on Iran’s compliance within ninety days. States were requested to report on their implementation of sanctions measures within sixty days. (It appears that a number of suggestions for the membership of the panel had been received by the Secretariat by the target deadline of the first week of August. Accordingly, it is possible that, after consultation with the Committee, the panel may be established by early September.) Resolution 1929 also stressed the willingness of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US) to enhance diplomatic efforts and dialogue with Iran and affirmed that sanctions measures will be suspended if Iran complies with existing resolutions but further measures will be adopted if the IAEA reports noncompliance on the part of Iran.

On 28 June Japan’s Ambassador Yukio Takasu, the then chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee, delivered a briefing to the Council. The five permanent members of the Council each took the floor following the briefing, with all reiterating their willingness to engage diplomatically with Iran. The UK and the US urged the early establishment of the panel of experts and France encouraged states to cooperate with the panel in the future. China stated that work to promote implementation of the fuel swap plan brokered by Brazil and Turkey continued. Russia voiced concern that some countries were taking additional restrictive measures not provided for in Council resolutions. (Media sources have reported that equipment acquired by German nationals on behalf of Russia for use in the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran was recently seized by German authorities because the transaction violated EU rules.)

On 1 July additional US measures against Iran, targeting the country’s energy and banking sectors, went into effect. China criticised the move on 6 July, saying that individual states should not elaborate or expand on sanctions measures imposed by the Council. Russia announced plans on 14 July for closer cooperation between Russia and Iran with regard to petroleum interests. However, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also urged Iran to fully explain alleged military components of its nuclear programme. On 26 July the EU adopted additional sanctions against Iran that included new restrictions on the energy and financial sectors, as well as various asset freezes and travel bans.

On 16 July the members of the Council condemned in a press statement the terrorist bombings that occurred that day in Zahedan, Iran which killed over two dozen people (SC/9986).

Iran has suggested on several occasions that it was prepared to engage in talks concerning its nuclear programme. On 25 July Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim met in Istanbul. Davutoglu said after the meeting that Iran had confirmed that EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would meet in September after the conclusion of Ramadan. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on 2 August he was willing to meet with US President Barack Obama during his visit to New York for the convening of the General Assembly in September. Also, on 9 August Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation head Ali Akbar Salehi said talks with France, Russia, the US and the IAEA (the Vienna group) were expected to restart in the next several weeks.

On 9 August an IAEA spokesperson advised that Iran had begun operating a second array of enrichment centrifuges to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level at the Natanz uranium enrichment complex, and noted that the move violated existing Council resolutions under which Iran is to suspend all enrichment-related activities. The use of two cascades allows low-enriched uranium (LEU) to be re-fed into the centrifuges in order to process the material more efficiently. (On 11 July Salehi was reported as saying that Iran had enriched 20 kilograms of uranium to the 20 percent level. The following day Russian President Medvedev said Iran was approaching the point at which it could potentially create a nuclear weapon.)

On 16 August Salehi said Iran would begin construction of an additional uranium enrichment facility by March 2011.

On 21 August the nuclear reactor of the Bushehr power plant in Iran began to be charged with fuel, according to a spokesperson for Russia’s atomic energy agency. The Bushehr plant, which Russia assisted in constructing, is Iran’s first nuclear power plant. Russia has supplied about 64 tons of low-enriched uranium for use in the plant. Salehi said that after the nuclear fuel is inside the plant, about a week will be required to transfer it to the reactor’s core. Russian technicians are then expected to be involved with bringing a nuclear reaction to a minimal sustainable level and to conduct tests on controls and safety features for about two to three months. It will take several months after that point for the plant to reach its maximum power output. The spent fuel is planned to be returned to Russia. (The irradiated spent fuel will contain plutonium which could in turn be used in constructing a nuclear weapon.)

Human Rights-Related Developments
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) considered Iran’s report on 5 August 2010. The Committee’s rapporteur, Dilip Lahiri, noted that Iran appeared to be doing what CERD had asked it to do in terms of increasing economic and social indicators. But it was difficult to evaluate these efforts because of the absence of data by ethnicity or race. For example, it was generally accepted that almost half the population of Iran comprised minority ethnic groups, and over 40 percent of the population used languages other than Persian. Iran’s report made frequent mention of deprived regions and underdeveloped communities, and the financial allocations made to address this situation. Despite repeated requests from CERD, however, the Committee had not received details of the demographic composition of Iran’s population, or economic and social indicators disaggregated by ethnicity. The Committee’s rule of thumb was to suspect racial discrimination, direct or indirect, whenever there were marked and persistent disparities in indicators between ethnic groups. This lack of data also made it difficult to identify and tackle discrimination and take concrete steps to combat it. Lahiri noted that it would also have been helpful if examples of discrimination complaints filed with Iranian human rights bodies had been produced.Iran was urged to rectify these issues in its next periodic report.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether the stated willingness on the part of Iran to engage in talks with the E3+3 might present an opportunity for negotiations on the issue.

A second issue is whether the enhanced sanctions by the Council are having any effect in influencing the Iranian government to return to negotiations in a meaningful way.

Underlying Problems
A key underlying problem is the continuing distrust between Iran and many members of the international community. Iran’s insistence on continuing and in some aspects expanding its nuclear programme in the face of multiple Council resolutions has only exacerbated this lack of trust.

A related underlying issue is the ongoing public discussion, by both sides, of military options.

Options for the Council include:

  • a statement noting recent statements made by Iran with regard to reengaging in talks on its nuclear programme, urging the parties to intensify efforts to find a basis for negotiations and repeating its calls for compliance with Council resolutions; or
  • to wait and see how various developments play out including the impact of resolution 1929, the establishment of the panel of experts, before discussing additional action.

Council and Broader Dynamics
Council members are waiting for the formation of the panel of experts. The panel is viewed by most as a significant new component of the sanctions regime. (One of the first tasks of the panel will be to aid the Committee in assessing the country reports on implementation that were due in early August.)

Many members seem to feel that some more time is needed in order to judge the effect resolution 1929 is having before discussing any further intensification of the sanctions. Some Council members think that there are some early indicators, such as the stated willingness of Iran to reengage in negotiations with the E3+3 through Catherine Ashton, which suggest some response to the apparent desire on the part of Iran to reengage should be tested. All are conscious, however, that the real issue is whether such negotiations will occur in a substantive manner. Brazil and Turkey (who both voted against resolution 1929) appear to remain somewhat sceptical of the utility of the sanctions. Nevertheless, they have voiced support for the implementation of resolution 1929 as a matter of international law.

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UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1929 (9 June 2010) imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. The resolution reaffirmed past Council decisions, imposed new measures on Iran and requested the Secretary-General to establish a panel of experts for a period of one year to assist the Iran Sanctions Committee in carrying out its work.
  • 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) 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 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.6344 (28 June 2010) was the most recent briefing by the chair of the 1737 Committee.

Selected Letter

  • 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.

Latest IAEA Reports

Other Relevant Facts

Sanctions Committee Chairman

  • Tsuneo Nishida (Japan)

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