December 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 November 2013
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Expected Council Action

In December, the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), is due to present his quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work to the Council.

Key Recent Developments

Following the inauguration on 3 August of Hassan Rouhani as the new president of Iran, talks on the nuclear file intensified between Iran and the P5+1—comprising the Council’s permanent members and Germany—leading to a breakthrough on 24 November. The parties agreed to a joint plan of action setting out measures to be undertaken during an initial six-month interim period, as well as elements for a long-term comprehensive solution.

According to the plan, key measures to be undertaken by Iran include:

  • halting enrichment of uranium above 5 percent and not increasing its stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium;
  • diluting below 5 percent or converting to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium;
  • not installing additional enrichment centrifuges of any type and leaving inoperable more than half of the already installed centrifuges;
  • halting construction at the Arak heavy water reactor; and
  • providing access for enhanced monitoring and inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Key measures that the P5+1 will take in return include:

  • pausing efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales and enable the repatriation of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad;
  • suspending US and EU sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and on gold and precious metals;
  • establishing a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad; and
  • refraining from imposing any new nuclear-related sanctions.

Additionally, the parties express their intention to negotiate and start implementing a comprehensive solution no more than one year after the adoption of the plan of action that would:

  • reflect the “rights and obligations” of parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards agreements;
  • comprehensively lift UN, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions;
  • involve a “mutually defined enrichment programme”; and
  • include full implementation of agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring, including implementation of the additional protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

In a separate development, Iran and the IAEA on 11 November signed a joint statement confirming that they had agreed to “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme through the resolution of all outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA”. The statement outlined a roadmap of initial measures to be taken by Iran within three months. According to the roadmap, Iran has committed itself to:

  • provide mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Gchine mine in Bandar Abbas and the heavy-water production plant in Arak;
  • provide information on all new research reactors and the 16 sites designated for the construction of nuclear power plants;
  • clarify its announcement regarding additional enrichment facilities; and
  • further clarify its announcement regarding laser enrichment technology.

In a 14 November report to the Council, the IAEA said the agreement marked an important step forward and noted that unresolved issues not included in the framework would be addressed in subsequent steps. (There was no initial mention, for example, of Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran that Iran is believed to have used for nuclear activities and to which the IAEA has unsuccessfully sought access in the past.) The report also noted that enrichment activities and construction of the Arak heavy water reactor seemed to have slowed down. The next meeting between Iran and the IAEA is scheduled for 11 December in Vienna.

With regard to developments in the Council, Quinlan held his last 120-day briefing on 5 September (S/PV.7028). Quinlan said that on 9 August the Committee had adopted its programme of work for 1 July to 31 December and had otherwise continued to consider the recommendations presented in the latest report by the Panel of Experts (PoE) along with other outstanding issues (S/2013/331). However, the Committee had not been able to agree on any of the recommendations and remained divided on a number of other issues, including over whether the ballistic missile launches during the so-called Great Prophet exercise in July 2012 were in violation of resolution 1929.

The Sanctions Committee met on 23 October and 21 November. At the 23 October meeting, the Committee discussed an incident report from the PoE on Singapore’s interception last year of an Iranian ship carrying high-grade carbon fibre. The report concluded that the shipment constituted a violation of resolution 1929. (Carbon fibre is among the dual-use items prohibited under operative paragraph 13 of that resolution.) The US proposed that the Committee issue an implementation assistance notice in response to this particular incident to inform states about sanctions-evasion techniques, but Russia was opposed. The Committee also considered a delisting request from the First East Export Bank, but this was denied. A US proposal to list Jaysh Al-Shabi, a pro-government Syrian militia that has allegedly received arms from Iran, was blocked by Russia, which put a hold on it.

On 21 November, the Committee discussed the PoE’s mid-term report. The report was largely procedural and the discussion was not very substantive. The report is due for submission to the Council by 9 December but will not be made public. (Unlike with many other PoEs, only the final report is issued as an official UN document.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 20 and 23 September respectively, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, welcomed the release on 18 September of a dozen prisoners of conscience and encouraged the government to release all other prisoners of conscience. Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally recognised human rights activist, was among those released. The High Commissioner also welcomed the news that the death sentence imposed on Iranian blogger Saeed Malekpour was overturned.

On 23 October, Shaheed presented his latest report on the situation of human rights in Iran to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (A/68/503). The report addressed violations of freedom of expression, access to information and association; the extremely poor conditions of detention; the alarming number of executions, including secret executions; discrimination, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of religious minority groups; gender discrimination; violations of the human rights of minorities; the issue of landmines; and the impact of sanctions on the population. Shaheed welcomed positive signals and statements by Rouhani and urged Iran to provide access to him and to the thematic rapporteurs. On the issue of sanctions, he called on the UN system and sanctions-imposing countries to monitor their impact. In particular, he stressed the importance of taking steps to ensure that financial-sector sanctions not undermine the objectives of humanitarian exemptions.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is whether recent progress in the talks with Iran means the time has come to consider easing or suspending sanctions implementation or whether, as some argue, it is essential to keep up the pressure on Iran—and even impose additional measures—for negotiations to succeed.


One option for the Council is to continue its work on sanctions enforcement through the Sanctions Committee independently of what is happening on the political track until a comprehensive agreement has been reached.

Another option is to suspend implementation of sanctions measures as long as there is continued positive momentum in the negotiations with Iran.

A further option would be to adopt a statement or a resolution welcoming the 24 November joint plan of action, reiterating the Council’s demands and expressing its willingness to suspend and eventually terminate all measures against Iran if it complies with the demands of the international community.

Council Dynamics

While Council members welcome recent positive developments at the political level, views differ on their implications for the work of the Sanctions Committee. The P3 and like-minded countries seem to think that until further notice the Committee should carry on its work on sanctions implementation as before, as evidenced in a US statement on the joint action plan which said that it would “vigorously enforce” its sanctions against Iran during the first phase. China, Pakistan and Russia on the other hand have already, in the context of discussions on how to respond to reported violations, been referring to the more positive political climate as an argument against any further action in the Committee at this stage.

Council members are likely to use the Council meeting in December as an opportunity to express their views on recent developments in the talks with Iran and possible implications for the sanctions regime.

The US is the penholder in the Council on Iran.

Security Council Resolutions
5 June 2013 S/RES/2105 This resolution renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee until 9 July 2014.
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
5 September 2013 S/PV.7028 The Council was briefed on the 90-day report of the 1737 Iran Sanction Committee.
Sanctions Committee Documents
5 June 2013 S/2013/331 This was a report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee.
IAEA Documents
14 November 2013 GOV/2013/56 This was a report by the IAEA on developments between Iran and the P5=1, 24 November 2013.
4 October 2013 A/68/503 This was a report on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Useful Additional Resource

Joint Plan of Action agreed between Iran and the P5+1, 24 November 2013


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