Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee. The current mandate does not expire until 9 July, but when the Council renewed the mandate on 7 June 2012 in resolution 2049, it expressed its intention “to take appropriate action regarding its extension no later than 9 June 2013”. (It seems to have become standard Council practice to extend such mandates for 13 instead of 12 months in case of any administrative delays.) A technical rollover is expected.
Also in June, the chair of the Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), is due to present his quarterly briefing on the work of the Committee to the Council and towards the end of the month is expected to convene a meeting with the wider UN membership on implementation of the sanctions regime with PoE members and perhaps other briefers. (A similar outreach event was held in July 2012.)
Key Recent Developments
In his 6 March briefing to the Council on the work of the 1737 Committee (S/PV.6930), Quinlan reported that the Committee had met on 13 February to discuss the 6 February notification from Yemen (which he referred to only as a “member state”) about its interception of a vessel believed to be carrying illicit weapons from Iran. He said the Committee had encouraged the PoE to investigate the allegations. Furthermore, the Committee had discussed how to respond to the 11 January PoE incident report on the missile launches conducted by Iran from 2 to 4 July 2012, which concluded that they constituted a violation of resolution 1929. It had also considered the compilation received from the PoE of publicly available statements made by Iranian officials regarding potential violations of the arms embargo. Quinlan noted, however, that the Committee had yet to agree on any follow-up action.
Quinlan also provided an update on communications and inquiries received from member states and informed the Council that the Committee had adopted an implementation assistance notice on conventional arms and related materiel on 26 December 2012 and on financial and business measures on 27 February. On 4 March it had updated the lists of nuclear-related and ballistic missile-related items subject to sanctions.
Since Quinlan’s briefing, the Committee held two substantive meetings. On 29 April, it considered the PoE’s report on its investigation of the notification from Yemen referred to above. It seems the PoE was split, with five experts (nationals of France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US) concluding with certainty that the intercepted arms shipment originated from Iran whereas the remaining three (nationals of China, Nigeria and Russia) said it was very likely, but could not be unequivocally confirmed based on available evidence. As a follow-up, the Committee on 21 May sent a letter to Iran inviting it to respond to the PoE’s findings in writing.
The Committee met again on 28 May to consider the PoE’s final report which had been submitted to Council members earlier in the month. It seems the report asserts that Iran is continuing to violate the sanctions regime both through illicit arms transfers and by attempting to source prohibited items and technology for its nuclear programme and highlights new methods used by Iran to circumvent the sanctions regime. Following a briefing by the PoE coordinator, Council members expressed their initial views on the report. The Committee is scheduled to meet again in June to discuss the report’s recommendations.
High-level talks continued between Iran and the P5+1—comprising the Council’s permanent members and Germany—but no progress was reported. Following resumption of the talks on 26-27 February in Almaty, Kazakhstan, there was a technical-level meeting on 18-19 March and then another high-level session in Almaty on 5-6 April, which ended without any outcome and Iran stating that it would be waiting for a response to its proposals.
On 15 May, as a follow-up to the Almaty talks, the P5+1 lead negotiator, Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, met with Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Istanbul. Following the meeting, Jalili said they had fruitful talks and had agreed to meet in the near future. No new meeting is expected, however, until after the 14 June presidential elections in Iran in which Jalili is one of the candidates.
Also on 15 May, Iran met with the IAEA in Vienna to continue discussions aimed at reaching agreement on a plan to resolve outstanding issues on the possible military dimension of its nuclear programme (referred to as a “structured approach”). The IAEA said they had had “intensive discussions” but had been unable to finalise the structured approach document. No date was set for another meeting. On 22 May, the IAEA formally reported that there had been no progress in resolving outstanding issues with Iran and that enrichment and heavy water related activities had continued.
On 9 May, the US announced the listing of an additional four Iranian companies, an Iranian-Venezuelan bank, a United Arab Emirates shipping company and an Iranian national as subject to sanctions targeting the Iranian nuclear programme.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 11-12 March, Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran for the Human Rights Council (HRC), presented his latest report (A/HRC/22/56) and held an interactive dialogue with HRC member states, observer states and NGOs. Iran’s reply to the report was published as an addendum (A/HRC/22/56/Add.1). Shaheed informed the HRC of the grave situation of human rights defenders and of religious minorities, allegations of torture, arrests of journalists and the alarmingly high rate of executions mostly for drug-related offenses that did not meet international standards for “most serious crimes”. Iran, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated that it rejected the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Additionally, on 20 March, Kyung-wha Kang, the then-Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Iran (A/HRC/22/48 of 28 February, requested by General Assembly resolution A/67/327). On 22 March, the HRC extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one year and called on the government of Iran to cooperate with him fully (A/HRC/RES/22/23).
A key issue for the Council in June is the renewal of the PoE’s mandate.
A further key issue is the composition of the PoE and whether there is a need for the expert selection process to be more transparent with a greater focus on geographic diversity.
An additional issue is whether the PoE’s latest report should be made public. (While the 2012 report was made public, the 2011 report was not, mainly due to objections from Russia.)
A continuing key issue is Iran’s defiance of relevant Council resolutions and its inconsistent cooperation with the IAEA.
A fundamental issue for the Council is whether the so-called dual-track approach is working or whether further punitive measures will only be counterproductive and lead to a further entrenching of Iran’s position. (This approach consists of pressuring Iran to comply with existing resolutions and obligations through sanctions while at the same time pursuing a diplomatic solution.)
At the Committee-level, a key issue is ensuring effective implementation of the sanctions regime. This includes the question of how to respond to reports and evidence of violations. A related issue is whether to take up any of the PoE’s recommendations.
The main option for the Council is to renew the PoE’s mandate for a further 13 months without any changes.
The main option for the Committee in June is to consider the PoE’s recommendations with a view to deciding on implementation. It could also issue additional implementation assistance notices to help guide member states.
A further option for the Committee is to use the chair’s 90-day report to the Council to signal the Committee’s willingness to act upon recent reports of violations. (The Chair’s statement is agreed by all Committee members.)
Council dynamics remain unchanged. This was reflected in Council members’ statements following Quinlan’s briefing on 6 March and has also been manifested in the Committee. In the 6 March meeting, there were clear differences between Council members such as China and Russia, which emphasised dialogue and negotiations as the only way to resolve the Iranian issue, and others such as France, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, the UK and the US, which reiterated their deep concern about Iran’s nuclear programme, stressed the importance of full implementation of the sanctions regime and called on the Committee to act on reports of violations.
In the latest discussions in the Committee of the report on the Yemen incident, it seems France, the UK and the US in particular argued that the evidence against Iran was conclusive and called for immediate appropriate action. China, Pakistan and Russia on the other hand apparently warned against hasty conclusions and called for further investigations.
With regard to the PoE’s final report, it seems to have been well received by most Council members. They seem to agree that the report is of high quality and that the evidence presented is credible. It is not clear, however, whether the Committee will be able to agree on implementation of any of the recommendations in the report. While some Council members feel the recommendations could have been more ambitious (there was only one new designation proposal), others are likely to resist any further action. The more immediate priority for many Council members, however, is to ensure that the report is made public once it has been submitted to the Council. (According to resolution 2049, the PoE is required to submit the report to the Council following discussion in the Committee.) Based on the initial reactions in the Committee, publication of the report is not expected to be controversial this time.
The US is the penholder in the Council on Iran.
UN Documents on Iran
|Security Council Resolutions|
|7 June 2012 S/RES/2049||The Council renewed the mandate of the Iran Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts for 13 months.|
|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|
|6 March 2013 S/PV.6930||This was a briefing by the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee.|
|22 May 2013 S/2013/307||This was the IAEA report on Iran.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|4 March 2013 SC/10928||This was a Sanctions Committee press statement announcing that the list of items subject to sanctions under resolution 1737 had been updated.|
|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.|