December 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 December 2011
Download Complete Forecast: PDF


Expected Council Action
Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia), chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee (1737 Committee), is expected to provide the Council in December with a regularly scheduled 90-day briefing. The briefing is likely to be routine; the floor will then be opened to other Council members.

Resolution 1984 of 9 June extended the mandate of the 1737 Committee’s panel of experts for a further year. It requested that the panel submit a midterm report (which has already been sent to the Committee) to the Council by 9 December. No Council action is expected following the regular briefing. 

Key Recent Developments
On 8 November, the IAEA Director General’s most recent report on Iran’s nuclear programme (“Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions”) became publicly available. The IAEA Board of Governors discussed the report in Vienna on 17-18 November.

The IAEA’s previous report of 2 September had noted that Iran continued to not implement a number of its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement and was not providing the necessary cooperation with the IAEA. The latest report went further and catalogued evidence indicating that there was a “credible” case that Iran had “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device.” While the report did not categorically state that Iran was developing nuclear weapons, it said it had “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.”

The report includes a 12-page annex documenting evidence from “a wide variety of independent sources,” including ten member states as well as the IAEA’s own investigators. The report says that the IAEA had obtained information indicating that Iran:

  • conducted computer modelling studies of nuclear explosions in 2008 and 2009;
  • built a large containment vessel, beginning in 2000, at the Parchin military complex in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments with high explosives and nuclear material, which are “strong indicators of possible weapons development”;
  • was working on a project to secure a source of uranium “suitable for use in an undisclosed enrichment programme”;
  • had been provided with nuclear explosive design information more advanced than previously identified;
  • conducted computer modelling studies of designs for a missile warhead; and
  • had developed fast-acting detonators, an integral part of a programme to develop an implosion-type nuclear device, whose civilian or conventional military applications were limited.

At the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on 17 November, the five states that are permanent Council members, along with Germany (which together comprise the “E3+3” lead group on Iran), agreed on a draft resolution about Iran’s nuclear programme. The resolution, which was described as a compromise text between western states and Russia and China, was adopted by the 35-member board on 18 November (with only Cuba and Ecuador voting against and Indonesia abstaining). The resolution expressed “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions.” It also urged Iran “once again to comply fully and without delay with its obligations under relevant resolutions” of the Council. The text requested that the Director General include an assessment of the implementation of the resolution in his progress report to the March 2012 meeting of the Board.

On 2 November, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano wrote to the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation proposing to send a high-level team to Iran to clarify the issues outlined in the most recent report.

Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear programme is for the peaceful purpose of providing energy. In a letter following the report’s publication, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA said that the Director General should not politicise the “technical organisation” by bias and a selective approach. Iran also called the IAEA’s report “unprofessional, unbalanced” and “illegal”.

In other developments, on 11 October the US permanent representative wrote to the Secretary-General bringing his attention to an attempted assassination plot that the US said constituted a serious threat to international peace and security. The letter stated that the US had recently disrupted a conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US and carry out follow-on attacks, which were “conceived, sponsored and directed by elements of the government of Iran.” One of the suspects in the alleged plot, a dual US-Iranian citizen, is in US custody and has pleaded not guilty; the other remains at large.

On 18 November, the General Assembly passed a resolution deploring the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador (106 votes in favour, 9 against and 40 abstentions). 

In its own written response to the allegations in a letter to the Secretary-General of 11 October, Iran denied any involvement in the alleged attack and rejected the allegations, citing a lack of evidence. 

On 21 November, the US, the UK and Canada announced that they would impose new sanctions on Iran, targeting its petrochemical, oil and gas industries. In announcing the new sanctions, US President Barack Obama said that the US was also designating 11 individuals and entities for their role in assisting Iran’s nuclear programme. The US also identified Iran as a jurisdiction of “primary money laundering concern”. Without formally sanctioning it, the US for the first time also identified the country’s entire banking sector, including the Central Bank of Iran, as a “threat to governments or financial institutions that do business” with it.  (Following an agreement on 22 November, European Union foreign ministers were expected to formally approve sanctions on 1 December on approximately 200 Iranian firms, individuals and organisations.)

Also on 21 November, the General Assembly’s Third Committee approved a draft resolution expressing deep concern at serious recurring human rights violations in Iran.  The draft text, which is expected to be formally adopted by the General Assembly in December, was approved by a vote of 86 in favour to 32 against, with 59 abstentions. The draft “country-specific” resolution on Iran, which has been sponsored annually by Canada since 2003, received six more votes in favour than in 2010 and eight fewer against.

On 29 November, the UK Embassy in Tehran was attacked by protesters resulting in serious damage; another UK diplomatic compound in northern Tehran—known as Qolhak Garden—was also damaged. In a press statement issued later in the same day, the President of the Council condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms”.  On 30 November, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the government had closed its Embassy in Tehran.  He said that Iran had been informed that the UK required the immediate closure of the Iranian Embassy and that all its diplomatic staff members must leave the United Kingdom within the next 48 hours.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 19 October the new special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, briefed the Third Committee of the General Assembly on his efforts to establish a dialogue with the country. Noting that the Iranian authorities had not yet agreed for him to visit, Shaheed remarked that engagement by Iran could serve to lessen the potential for politicisation about which the government had repeatedly complained. “However,” he added, “insufficient cooperation will only continue to heighten the concern of the international community and will reduce the potential for a positive and constructive dialogue” on human rights issues.

On 2 November, the UN’s Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations on the third periodic report of Iran, said that the government should establish a full, impartial and independent investigation into allegations of killings, torture and other ill-treatment during and following the 12 June 2009 presidential elections and prosecute those officials found responsible. The Committee added that Iran should ensure that an inquiry was opened in each case of alleged torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in detention facilities, that effective reparation was granted to every victim, that no one was coerced into testifying against him- or herself or into confessing guilt and that no such “confession” was accepted as evidence in court.

Key Issues
The core issue for the Council is how to most effectively address Iran’s continuing refusal to implement its obligations under previous Council resolutions and ensure cooperation with the IAEA. An important issue for the Council is whether taking further action against Iran is likely to encourage engagement or whether further attempts at dialogue with Tehran would be more likely to result in the desired cooperation.

One option for the Council would be to impose further sanctions on Iran. But that option has been dismissed by Russia and China. (The Council has adopted four sets of measures sanctioning Iran: resolutions 1737 [2006], 1747 [2007], 1803 [2008] and 1929 [2010]. Resolution 1929, of 9 June 2010, expanded the arms embargo and tightened restrictions against Iran. The Council took several months to negotiate the text, and it was ultimately approved by a vote of 12 in favour to two against—Brazil and Turkey—with one abstention—Lebanon.)

Another option for the Council would be waiting until the IAEA’s Director General is next due to provide a progress report on Iran before considering further action.

A further option would be to request the Committee to make additional designations of individuals or entities to be subject to the sanctions regime.

Council Dynamics
Several Council members, as with many in the international community, continue to have grave suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear programme and distrust its intentions. Reactions to the publication of the IAEA’s report on 8 November, however, highlighted the divergent views in the Council on addressing Iran’s continuing nuclear programme. While there seems to be consensus in the Council that Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA is insufficient and there is concern over its development of a possible nuclear weapons programme, some Council members consider imposing further sanctions on Iran unhelpful. China and Russia have emphasised the need for further diplomatic engagement. 

IIn response to the IAEA’s report, France, Germany and the US called for stronger sanctions against Iran, and the UK said that if Tehran did not enter serious negotiations on its programme then additional measures, including sanctions against Iran’s financial and oil and gas sectors, should be considered. On the other hand, Russia and China responded to the IAEA report by saying that they would oppose attempts to impose further sanctions on Iran in the Council. Russia indicated that additional sanctions would be seen in the international community as an “instrument for regime change in Iran,” while China said that the IAEA should be more “objective.”

Sign up for SCR emails
UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1984 (9 June 2011) extended the mandate of the panel of experts that supports the Iran Sanctions Committee for one year.
  • 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 established a panel of experts 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. (The E3+3 consists of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US.)
  • 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.  
Security Council Press Statements

Latest IAEA Reports

Latest IAEA Resolution

Other Relevant Facts

Sanctions Committee Chairman

Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia)

Full forecast