December 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

The Council is scheduled to be briefed in December by the outgoing chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Néstor Osorio (Colombia), on the Committee’s work over the last three months. 

No Council action is expected. 

Key Recent Developments

On 16 November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published its latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme. The report reiterated many of the concerns expressed in its previous report of 30 August, including ongoing questions about the possible military dimensions of the nuclear programme. In particular, the report notes significant developments that the IAEA has observed at the Parchin military site since the IAEA first requested access to the site in January. (These include the razing of several structures, the shrouding of the containment vessel building and the removal of considerable quantities of earth at the site.) The report reiterated the request to Iran for the IAEA to visit Parchin, but it also said that due to the “extensive activities” that had taken place at the site this year, “when the Agency gains access to the location, its ability to conduct effective verification will have been seriously undermined.” The 16 November report also stated that Iran continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow complex and at its Natanz site. 

The report lamented that, despite the “intensified dialogue” between the IAEA and Iran since January, no “concrete results” had been achieved in resolving outstanding issues. In particular, there has been no agreement on a “structured approach” to address remaining issues of concern vis-à-vis the nuclear programme. The IAEA is next scheduled to hold a high-level dialogue with Iran in Tehran on 13 December. 

Earlier, on 13 September, the IAEA’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution (GOV/2012/50) reiterating its “serious concern that Iran continues to defy the requirements and obligations” contained in relevant IAEA and Council resolutions. (The resolution was the first adopted by the 35-member board since November 2011, when it expressed “deep and increasing concern” about the nuclear programme and emphasised the need to clarify issues so as to “exclude the existence of possible military dimensions.”) 

The “P5+1”—comprising the Council’s permanent members and Germany—took the leading role in drafting this year’s IAEA resolution. The resolution observed that Iran had not allowed the IAEA access to its sites as requested, including Parchin. While it notes that no agreement had been reached between Iran and the IAEA, it recalled the statement by Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (who represents the P5+1 in negotiations with Iran), that the overall goal of the talks remained a “comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution.” 

Notably, the resolution expressed its continued support for a “peaceful resolution” of the issue and noted that a “constructive diplomatic process” was the best means of achieving that end. Analysts observed that while the resolution sent a clear message to Iran about the need to address the international concerns regarding its nuclear programme, it also emphasised—more so than the previous resolution—the need for the issue to be resolved without states resorting to military means. 

On 5 November, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressed the UN General Assembly. He reiterated that Iran was not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the IAEA to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran was “in peaceful activities.” Despite an intensification of dialogue with Tehran in the 12 months prior, no concrete results had been achieved, Amano said, noting that negotiations on a “structured approach” would continue. 

The 1737 Sanctions Committee met twice since the last quarterly briefing by its chair, most recently on 26 November, to discuss, inter alia, the 11 recommendations in the 12 June report (S/2012/395) of its Panel of Experts (PoE). It seems that several Council members emphasised the importance of making progress towards acting on the recommendations, including the designation of specified entities that had engaged in prohibited arms export activity with Iran. The Committee discussed the PoE’s recently submitted midterm report of its work, which will now be submitted to the Council by 9 December. Some members additionally expressed concerns over reports of weapons being transported from Iran to Syria and to Hamas, in contravention of the sanctions regime, and urged the PoE to investigate. 

At the political level, the P5+1 met in Brussels on 21 November to discuss the next steps concerning its negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme. (Three rounds of high-level talks have been held with Iran since April, the last one being in Moscow in mid-June, although they failed to result in tangible progress.) Following the US presidential election on 6 November, attempts at reigniting the talks were being discussed although at press time a date for the next round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran had not been set.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 23 October, three UN Special Rapporteurs—on human rights in Iran, on extrajudicial executions and on torture—expressed outrage at the execution of 10 drug-related offenders in Iran. On 12 October they had called for the executions to be halted. On 15 November, they also called for an independent and impartial investigation into the death of a blogger while in custody, particularly allegations of torture. 

The Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly on 24 October, describing the overall human rights situation in the country as deeply troubling. Shaheed expressed concern over the new penal code, the arrest of 19 journalists between January and May, the high rate of executions (particularly for drug-related crimes), the treatment of lawyers and human rights defenders and violations of due-process rights, including ill treatment during interrogations and denial of legal representation. Although he was not allowed to visit Iran, Shaheed conducted 99 interviews with individuals living both inside and outside the country. Iran had submitted its comments and observations on the draft report. 

From 11-22 November, Shaheed conducted a second fact-finding mission to Germany, Norway and Sweden which host Iranian diaspora, to gather information about alleged human rights violations in Iran. During a press conference in Oslo on 22 November, he said he received credible testimonies that largely confirmed patterns he had previously encountered, including repressive policies towards religious and ethnic minorities, the worsening of the situation of women, and harassment and detention of human rights defenders.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is ensuring that tensions in the region do not escalate while the international community and Iran attempt to reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution to concerns about the nature of the latter’s nuclear programme. 

Iran’s inconsistent cooperation with the IAEA remains an important concern, particularly its reported hampering of IAEA efforts to gain access to the Parchin site. 

A fundamental issue for the Council is striking an effective balance between pressuring Iran to comply with existing resolutions and obligations through the sanctions regime, and not antagonising it to the extent that sanctions become counterproductive to the peaceful resolution of the dispute. 

At the Committee level, a key issue is the implementation of the existing sanctions as recommended in the PoE’s report. Another is reaching agreement on issuing guidance to member states in the form of Implementation Assistance Notices. 

Options

Developments at the Council level in the foreseeable future are unlikely as long as diplomatic attempts to resolve differences between the P5+1 and Iran continue. 

Within the 1737 Committee, members could implement some or all of the PoE’s recommendations. This could begin with the designation of Yas Air—an Iranian cargo airline—and the SAD Import-Export Company, which are specified by the PoE as having violated the sanctions regime against Iran. 

Additionally, the Committee could issue Implementation Assistance Notices concerning the recommendations in the report. These could include reminding member states to submit implementation reports and to maintain a high degree of vigilance over goods transported to and from Iran; encouraging member states to fulfil their duty to report incidents of non-compliance; and seeking from member states, on a voluntary basis, further information regarding designated individuals. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

Since the adoption of resolution 1929 (2010) imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran and the lengthy negotiations that led to that decision, the P5 have been split on whether the Council should take further action on Iran. Due to this paralysis within the Council, states in favour of stronger sanctions—notably the US and EU members—have increasingly implemented them unilaterally. 

Within the IAEA’s Board of Governors, where the P5+1 states take a leading role and where current Council members India, Pakistan and South Africa are also represented, the P5 appeared to see relatively eye-to-eye recently in drafting the 13 September IAEA resolution among themselves. (South Africa sought to add an amendment to the P5+1’s agreed text, delaying the adoption.) For now, all the P5+1 members seem to agree that Iran’s continued enrichment activities are of concern and are united in their calls for Tehran to comply with its obligations, while emphasising the desirability of the differences being resolved through a “constructive diplomatic process.” 

UN Documents on Iran

Security Council Resolutions  
9 June 2010 S/RES/1929 This resolution imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. The resolution imposed new measures on Iran and requested the Secretary-General to establish a panel of experts for 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.
Notes by the President of the Security Council  
19 November 2012 S/2012/850 This Note contained the 16 November 2012 report of IAEA Director General on Iran’s nuclear programme (GOV/2012/55).
4 June 2012 S/2012/395 This Note contained the 2012 Panel of Experts report, containing 11 recommendations, including the designation of two companies for transporting prohibited arms from Iran bound for Syria.
Security Council Meeting Record  
20 September 2012 S/PV.6839 At this meeting of the Security Council the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee presented his regular quarterly report.