March 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2011
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to receive a briefing from the chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee on Iran in March. (The chair typically briefs the Council every ninety days; this will be the first briefing by the current chair, Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia.) An IAEA report on Iran’s compliance with Council resolutions is also expected before the briefing.

Key Recent Developments
The IAEA last reported on Iran’s implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement and relevant Council resolutions on 23 November 2010. The report said that 3,183 kilograms of low enriched uranium was produced through October 2010, while 32.9 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent had been produced since the process began in February 2010. The report concludes that, contrary to IAEA board and Council resolutions, Iran has still not suspended its enrichment-related activities. The IAEA “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organisations.”

On 10 December 2010, Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida (Japan), then chair of the 1737 sanctions committee, briefed the Council. He said that during the previous ninety days the committee had received reports from two UN member states regarding two possible sanctions violations (it was clear from the Council’s discussion that they were Nigeria and Italy). Nishida said that “it is a matter of grave concern that the apparent pattern of sanctions violations involving prohibited arms transfers from Iran, first highlighted publicly by the committee a year ago, is continuing.” Noting that Japan’s chairmanship of the committee was coming to an end, he stressed the need for the panel of experts and committee to work together in a coordinated fashion, the importance for the committee and the panel to ensure transparency and share information with member states and the importance of member states to submit mandated reports on national implementation required by the sanctions resolutions.

The five permanent members of the Council each took the floor following the briefing. All expressed support for continued discussion and diplomatic negotiations in order to resolve concern over Iran’s nuclear programme. France, the UK and the US each stressed the importance of the work of the panel of experts, the need for full reporting by member states on national implementation of sanctions measures and expressed concern over the latest IAEA report. China and Russia placed special emphasis on achieving progress through diplomatic negotiations. China also expressed concern over the imposition of additional sanctions by countries beyond those measures contained in relevant Council resolutions.

On 13 December 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki and named Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear organisation, as interim foreign minister. The same day, Iran wrote to the Secretary-General and president of the Council on the matter of two physicists who were attacked in Tehran on 29 November 2010. Iran asserted that the attacks, which killed one of the scientists, were carried out on behalf of powers opposed to the continuation of Iran’s nuclear programme and urged the attacks be condemned by the Council.

On 15 December 2010 a suicide bombing at a mosque in Chabahar, Iran, reportedly killed dozens of people. The Secretary-General and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both condemned the attack and offered condolences.

The work of the sanctions committee’s panel of experts, meant to assist the committee in carrying out its work, has continued. In late January the panel provided to the Council an interim report on its work. (The panel consists of eight members from China, France, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Russia, the UK and the US. The interim report was called for in resolution 1929, which established the panel for one year and imposed further sanctions on Iran. The report was due by 5 February, ninety days after the Secretary-General’s appointment of the panel.)

On 15 January, Iran state media reported that representatives of five countries (Cuba, Egypt, Oman, Syria and Venezuela) were arriving in the country, at the invitation of Iran, to tour some of its nuclear facilities. China, the EU and Russia, who had also been invited, declined to take part in the tour.

On 21 and 22 January, discussions were held between the E3+3 (Germany, France and the UK, and China, Russia and the US) and Iran in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting followed talks between the parties that were held on 6 and 7 December 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland. It seems that the E3+3 came prepared to discuss a modified fuel swap proposal, by which Iran would transfer most of its enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. (Similar plans were offered by the group in October 2009 and negotiated with Turkey and Brazil in 2010 just before the Council imposed additional sanctions.) However, the talks achieved little progress. Iran reportedly took the position that before discussing Iran’s nuclear programme and any possible revival of a fuel swap proposal, it would require international recognition of its right to enrich uranium and the lifting of sanctions. (The position of the E3+3 has been that sanctions would be lifted after Iran demonstrates compliance with relevant Council and IAEA decisions, and it appears the group maintained a unified approach in the latest talks.)

After the meeting, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton expressed disappointment with the talks and stressed that it was incumbent on Iran to demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. She said further talks had not been scheduled. An aide to Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said Iran expected talks would continue in the future, though the venue and date had not been set.

On 5 February, Russian media reported Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that a step-by-step plan involving incentives was needed in order to make progress on the issue. He said that the Istanbul talks made clear that a more detailed plan was needed for successful negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. A US State department official said the same day that talks meant to delay progress rather than addressing the nuclear issue were not satisfactory.

On 15 February, Lavrov said at a press conference that Russia could not support any sanctions further than those included in resolution 1929, as additional measures would harm the population of the country.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 2 February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm at the dramatic increase in executions in Iran since the beginning of the year. Pillay expressed particular concern over the cases in which political activists were executed. Pointing out that Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to free expression and to free association, the high commissioner said that it is “absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned for association with opposition groups, let alone be executed for their political views or affiliations.” Pillay added that “the international community as a whole is moving towards abolition of the death penalty in law or in practice” and called on Iran to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Key Issues
A key issue is maintaining support among Council members for the existing sanctions regime. Another issue is the lack of progress coming out of the latest E3+3 talks in Istanbul, with the position taken by Iran seemingly at serious odds with that of the other negotiating partners.

Underlying Problems
A key underlying problem is the lack of trust between Iran and many members of the international community. Iran’s refusal to implement existing Council resolutions is a prime factor.

Options for the Council include:

  • taking no action at present while allowing more time for the sanctions measures to have an effect;
  • expressing concern over the lack of progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue; or
  • reiterating the importance of all member states that have not yet reported to the committee on national implementation of resolution 1929 to do so.

Council and Broader Dynamics
Council members remain concerned about the continued development of Iran’s nuclear programme. Many look to Iran to engage in more substantive discussions and to take some concrete measures aimed at confidence building, noting that resolution 1929 affirmed that sanctions measures would be suspended if Iran complies with existing resolutions. The E3+3 Council members appear disappointed with the lack of outcome from the latest round of talks with Iran in Istanbul.

Also, while all members support the implementation of existing Council resolutions as a matter of principle, some remain concerned that the sanctions that have been imposed do not seem to have yet prompted Iran to engage in substantive negotiations. Others, including the E3, accept that sanctions can require some time to take effect and bring about changes in behaviour. Most members seem to agree that the sanctions are having some effect on Iran’s government, though gauging that effect is difficult. The imposition of additional sanctions does not seem to be viewed as likely in the near term.

Most committee members seem to view the work of the panel of experts favourably. Some recall the concerted efforts required for passage of the latest sanctions resolution in 2010 and emphasise the importance now of ensuring its effective implementation with the assistance of the panel.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1929 (9 June 2010) imposed a fourth round of sanctions on 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.6442 (10 December 2010) was the most recent briefing by the chair of the 1737 Committee.

Selected Letter

  • S/2010/634 (13 December 2010) was the letter from Iran to the Secretary-General and Council regarding the killing of an Iranian physicist.

Latest IAEA Report

Other Relevant Facts

Sanctions Committee Chairman

  • Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia)

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