Expected Council Action
In September, the Council is due to receive a quarterly briefing from Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia), the chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee (1737 Committee), on its work since the last briefing (12 June).
The Council does not usually take action following these regular briefings.
Key Recent Developments
On 7 June, the Council adopted resolution 2049, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1737 Committee for thirteen months (until 9 July 2013). In the resolution the Council expressed its intention to review the PoE’s mandate at least one month before its expiry. The wording of the mandate renewal and the reporting requirement for the PoE is essentially identical to the previous year’s resolution: it requests a midterm report to the Council by 9 December and a final report to the Council following the completion of its mandate (after the report has first been discussed at the Committee level).
In a 6 July letter to the President of the Council (S/2012/521), the Secretary-General reappointed the eight members of the PoE. (The experts each have discrete expertise, such as in “customs enforcement” and “missile technology.” All the P5 have a national on the PoE, the other three are from Germany, Japan and Nigeria.)
On 9 July, Ambassador Osorio, as chair of the 1737 Committee, and Salomé Zourabichvili (France)—the coordinator of the PoE—briefed interested member states on the activities of both the Committee and the PoE. In remarks to the press afterwards, Osorio said that it had been important to reach out to the membership at large, as members’ strong support made the Committee’s work more effective and allowed the wider membership to better understand the provisions set out in Council resolutions.
Additionally, Osorio said that while he was encouraged that some states had submitted national implementation reports concerning sanctions on Iran (as required by Council resolutions), more needed to be done to improve the reporting rate. (For example, the Committee had received reports from only 80 member states under the most recent round of sanctions on Iran, resolution 1929.)
In political developments, discussions with Iran about its nuclear programme have been downgraded to the technical level since the high-level talks in Moscow on 18-19 June between the P5+1 (the permanent members and Germany) and Iran ended without a breakthrough. Iranian and EU officials met in Istanbul on 3 July and on 24 July.
On 2 August, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who leads the P5+1 delegation, spoke for the first time since the Moscow talks with her counterpart, Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. In a statement following the telephone conversation, Ashton said that she impressed on Iran the need to address the issues raised “in order to build confidence,” and that the two agreed to talk again by the end of August.
Since negotiations recommenced this year in April in Istanbul, it seems the gap that separates the two sides in terms of their demands has not narrowed substantially. The P5+1’s request in the negotiations has essentially been three-fold, namely that Iran should:
- halt all 20 percent uranium enrichment;
- remove all stockpiles of 20-percent-enriched uranium in a swap agreement; and
- shut down the Fordow uranium-enrichment facility.
Iran on the other hand says it seeks recognition of its “inalienable rights” to peaceful nuclear energy and the right to enrich uranium. Tehran also seeks, inter alia, a lifting of sanctions against it. (Since 1 July, an EU oil ban against Iran has been in effect and— together with ever-tightening US sanctions—the current restrictions are the toughest that have ever been in place against Iran. In August, Standard Chartered Bank, which has its headquarters in London, agreed to pay a $340 million fine to New York State regulators following allegations that the bank had broken US sanctions on Iran. Several other European financial institutions are also reportedly being investigated by US authorities for possible illicit transactions with Iran.)
Following speculation this year as to whether Israel was considering unilateral strikes against Iran, President Shimon Peres said in a 16 August television interview in Israel that the country could not successfully undertake such a mission alone. The interview was reportedly broadcast hours after Defence Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset that the risks of dealing with Iran today would be smaller and less costly than dealing with a nuclear Iran further down the track. While the presidential office is largely ceremonial, Peres’ remarks were interpreted as criticism of the conservative government’s rhetoric concerning a strike against Iran.
On 24 August, talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran in Vienna did not result in an agreement concerning access to Iran’s Parchin military site, nor did the two sides set another meeting date. Access to the site has been an ongoing priority for the IAEA as it believes Iran may have conducted tests there relevant to the development of nuclear weapons capability.
In late August, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran after much debate about his attendance. (Iran assumed the rotating presidency of the grouping for three years during the summit.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Secretary-General’s report on “The Question of the Death Penalty,” which will be considered by the Human Right Council (HRC) in September, raises several serious concerns about Iran. It highlights the high number of executions and the new anti-narcotics law that came into force in 2011, expanding the application of the death penalty to new drug-related offences. (The HRC’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran has reported that there were 670 executions in Iran in 2011, of which 81 percent were of drug offenders, including people believed to be under 18 at the time the offence was committed.) The report acknowledges that the new Islamic Penal Code, adopted by the parliament in January, states that juveniles below 18 years of age will not be sentenced to death if the court decides that the offender did not have adequate mental maturity and ability to reason. The report notes, however, that despite this limitation, the new code has retained the death penalty in almost all instances that were punishable under the previous measure and has expanded its scope in some cases.
The key issue for Council members is finding a diplomatic solution to the present impasse vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear programme.
Related issues for the Council are Iran’s inconsistent cooperation with the IAEA and ensuring that Iran fulfils its responsibilities as a non-nuclear-weapon state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A further issue for the Council, particularly given that two elected members border Iran (Azerbaijan and Pakistan), is ensuring that tensions in the region do not escalate to the point where coercive measures are employed.
Due to the dynamics among its permanent members, it is unlikely that the Council itself will take steps aimed at further pressuring Tehran to reach a negotiated settlement.
At the Committee level, however, members could follow up on the 11 recommendations in the PoE’s final report, including the designation of an Iranian cargo airline and Iran’s SAD Import-Export Company for engaging in prohibited arms exports activity with Iran.
Another recommendation by the PoE that the Committee could act upon is addressing the discrepancies between the lists of individuals originally designated under Council resolutions (such as the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and those who currently hold those positions identified in the designations.
Furthermore, the Committee could work with the Secretariat to look into how the PoE could cooperate with other groups of experts assisting other sanctions committees.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Despite the fact that the P5+1 are represented as one group in the ongoing talks with Tehran, deep divisions exist among them on Iran. The increasingly stringent sanctions being imposed outside UN auspices by the US and EU, as part of a dual-track approach to both apply pressure and engage diplomatically, are not welcomed by some members. China in particular has publicly voiced concerns at recently introduced US sanctions that target foreign banks—including Chinese banks—that deal with blacklisted Iranian institutions. Russia, too, has warned of the “extraterritorial effect” of such sanctions. Several members, including China, consistently reiterate that sanctions ought not to be an end in themselves. Although others—including EU members—agree with that principle, they emphasise that sanctions are important in hastening a negotiated solution.
Several Council members emphasise the need for Iran to abide by earlier resolutions and for it to cooperate with the IAEA. Ensuring effective implementation of existing measures against Iran is likely to be a primary focus.
The US is the lead in the Council on Iran.
Selected UN Documents
|Security Council Resolutions|
|7 June 2012 S/RES/2049||Renewed the mandate of the Iran Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts for 13 months.|
|9 June 2010 S/RES/1929||This resolution imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. (Twelve members voted in favour of the resolution, Brazil and Turkey voted against and Lebanon abstained.) 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.|
|23 December 2006 S/RES/1737||This resolution banned trade with Iran of certain nuclear proliferation-sensitive items, imposed an asset freeze on a list of persons and entities involved in proliferation-sensitive activities and established a Sanctions Committee.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 June 2012 S/PV.6786||The Chair of the Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia), briefed the Council on the Committee’s work.|
|Security Council Letters|
|5 July 2012 S/2012/521||This letter from the Secretary-General reappointed the eight experts on the PoE.|
|Human Rights Council Documents|
|2 July 2012 A/HRC/21/29||This report was on “The Question of the Death Penalty.”|
|4 June 2012 S/2012/395||This annual Panel of Expert’s report contains 11 recommendations, including the designation of two companies for transporting prohibited arms from Iran bound for Syria.|