June 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action
The mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) that assists the Iran Sanctions Committee (1737 Committee) expires on 9 June. The Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the PoE’s mandate for one year in early June. 

Later in the month, the Council is expected to receive a regular quarterly briefing from the chair of the 1737 Committee, Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia).

On 31 May, the Committee was expected to have discussed the PoE’s final report, which was distributed to Committee members earlier in the month. (After this discussion, the PoE is requested to submit its final report to the Council.) 

Key Recent Developments
On 23-24 May, a second round of talks was held in Baghdad between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (comprising China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany) on Iran’s nuclear programme. The negotiations followed talks in Istanbul that concluded on 14 April, which were the first such meeting in 15 months between the two sides. Catherine Ashton—the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who leads the P5+1 delegation—described the Istanbul talks as “constructive and useful”, while Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said they were “very successful”. The key outcome of the meeting appeared to be that the two sides would meet again. 

A primary objective of the P5+1 for the Baghdad talks was securing agreement from Iran that it would halt its enrichment programme of higher-grade uranium, which it launched in 2010. Iran considered the removal of sanctions against it an important outcome of any negotiated deal. Iran also sought recognition of its right to enrichment. The two days of talks were “intense,” according to Ashton, but “significant differences” remained. A new round was announced, to take place in Moscow on 18-19 June.

The talks in Baghdad followed closely on the heels of a visit by the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to Tehran for discussions on 21 May with senior Iranian government representatives, including Jalili. It seemed that some progress was made during the visit towards reaching a deal that would allow IAEA inspectors to visit Iran’s military facility at Parchin, southeast of Tehran. (The IAEA has sought access to this and other sites to assess whether Iran is engaging in activities relevant to the development of nuclear weapons.) Amano said that a “decision was made by me and Mr. Jalili to reach an agreement,” although “remaining unspecified differences” prevented a deal being signed immediately. The outcome from Amano’s visit was met with scepticism from those seeking tangible signs that Iran is fully cooperating with the international community.

On 25 May, the IAEA’s latest report on Iran became available and stated that IAEA inspectors had found traces of uranium being enriched at 27 percent at Iran’s Fordow site, a higher level of enrichment than previously found.

The timing of the present talks is notable. On 1 July, the EU is scheduled to implement a complete ban on Iranian oil imports. Additional US sanctions are also due to be imposed by the end of June. On 21 May, the US Senate approved a new bill targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) through additional sanctions.

Earlier, on 2 May, during a meeting on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in Vienna, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhondzadeh reiterated that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defence doctrine and accused “certain” states of double standards and hypocrisy. 

In developments at the UN, on 18 April the 1737 Committee agreed to designate two additional Iranian individuals and one entity (an Iranian company) to be subject to sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze. In a statement on 20 April, Ambassador Susan Rice (US) said that the listed individuals had “helped plan a weapons shipment—intercepted by Nigeria in 2010—in violation of existing UN sanctions.” Both individuals and the company, which the Committee lists as having “played a key role in Iran’s illicit transfer of arms to West Africa,” are reportedly linked to the Qods Force of the IRGC. The designations were the first additions to the sanctions list since June 2010.

On 16 May, Reuters published details of the PoE’s latest report, although the report itself was still to be discussed by the Committee and is not public. The wire service reported that the PoE had investigated three large illegal shipments of Iranian weapons over the last year. Two of these cases reportedly involved Syria and the third shipment was bound for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. 

The PoE comprises eight experts: one from each of the P5 members, including a coordinator from France, as well as one national each from Germany, Japan and Nigeria.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is Iran’s compliance with resolutions concerning its nuclear programme and its obligations to cooperate fully with the IAEA.

An overarching issue is regional stability. Ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is for non-military purposes is significant in reducing both the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle-East and the prospects of regional conflict.

A key issue for the Council in June is the language renewing the PoE’s mandate. (This is pertinent given the objection to last year’s report being published.) Whereas resolution 1929 (2010) requested the PoE to submit its final report “to the Council,” resolution 1984 last year stipulated that the final report should first go to the Committee and then “after a discussion with the Committee,” the PoE should submit it to the Council.

Options
One option for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing the PoE’s mandate without modifications for a further year.

Another option is for Council members to revise the PoE’s mandate, possibly setting out more specifically what its work should involve or the process of its reporting.

Looking ahead to the Committee chair’s briefing in June, Council members could make statements in their national capacities, but—as in the past—take no action. (One further option might be for the Council itself to address the issue of publication of the PoE’s 2011 report, including by taking a procedural vote on the matter.)

Council and Wider Dynamics
There have been clear divisions among permanent members since the Council adopted resolution 1929 (2010), which imposed the most recent round of sanctions on Iran. These differences have also manifested themselves at the Committee level, where the agreement of all 15 members is required to make a decision. In the past, Russia has been vocal in asserting that the PoE remain within its mandate. (Its concerns about the the 2011 final report have thus far prevented it from being published.) This inability to reach consensus, including on implementing the recommendations of the May 2011 report, seems to have irked the P3, Germany and others, who have asserted that the PoE’s work is objective and credible and that the wider membership has a right to consider its findings.

Despite the differing opinions among the P5 as to the utility of sanctions vis-à-vis Iran, there are some indications that the countries are working more constructively together behind closed doors. At the Committee level, members’ agreement to sanction additional entities proposed by the UK in April would seem to be a positive sign, considering the gridlock that has existed in recent years. Council members will be following the next round of the P5+1 talks with Iran closely. There is little talk of further Council sanctions at this time (any attempt would be likely to induce a veto from Russia and perhaps China). The existing sanctions applied by the EU and the US could already be interpreted as being successful in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table.

The US is the Council lead on Iran.

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 Meeting Record
  • S/PV.6697 (21 December 2011) was the quarterly briefing by the Chair of the 1718 Committee. 

Latest IAEA Reports

 Latest IAEA Resolution

Other Relevant Facts

Sanctions Committee Chairman

Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia)

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