March 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2014
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In March, 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

Quinlan last briefed the Council on 12 December 2013 (S/PV.7082). He welcomed the 24 November interim agreement (Joint Plan of Action, [JPA]), which is the first step towards a comprehensive, long-term agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (Germany is the additional member of the negotiating group). But he stressed that all Council sanctions remained in effect and that member states should continue to implement them. He encouraged Iran to engage with the Committee and respond to the letters requesting clarification of incidents investigated by the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee.

The Sanctions Committee held an informal meeting on 20 January and also had informal discussions (“informal informals”) on 29 January focusing on the six recommendations directed at the Council in the PoE’s 3 June 2013 report (S/2013/331).

Recent discussions focused in particular on recommendations two and four as listed in the PoE’s report. Recommendation two called for the Committee to encourage states “to be alert to the attempted procurement of items for prohibited purposes, including items that fall below control thresholds, and to issues relating to end use and end users” possibly through the issuance of an Implementation Assistance Notice. However, no conclusion was reached on this.

Recommendation four said the Committee should provide guidance to states about ambiguities in the language of the resolutions concerning the phrases “entities acting on their behalf or at their direction” and “entities owned or controlled by them”. The chair proposed that instead of the Committee trying to develop such guidance only for its own purposes, it should reach out to other committees dealing with similar issues to try to agree on a common approach. It was decided that the chair should initiate such consultations and report back to the Committee but with the understanding that members reserved their positions with regard to the final outcome.

On 18 February, Iran and the P5+1 began their first round of talks aimed at reaching a long-term agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme involving the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions. The two sides had announced on 12 January that the six-month JPA would take effect on 20 January, meaning that 20 July will be the first deadline for concluding the agreement. The JPA can be extended by mutual consent for six months if agreement has not been reached by then. (Although the JPA was announced on 24 November, technical details had to be finalised before implementation could start. Please refer to our December 2013 Monthly Forecast for further details.)

On 20 February the two sides announced that they had agreed on a road map for the negotiations. The agreed schedule included an experts’ level meeting in early March and for the full delegations to meet again on 17 March followed by monthly sessions. It was also envisaged that Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and chief negotiator for the P5+1 would travel to Iran ahead of the 17 March meeting. Few details emerged as for any more substantive points discussed.

There seemed to be good progress under the 11 November 2013 cooperation framework agreed between Iran and the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues. In a 20 February report to the Council (S/2014/116), the IAEA Director General said that Iran had implemented the initial six practical steps agreed in November and that it had now agreed to implement seven additional measures by 15 May, including managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd and the Ardakan concentration plant as well as Iran’s providing information on various other aspects of its nuclear programme. (There was still no mention of Parchin, a military site that Iran is believed to have used for nuclear activities and to which the IAEA has unsuccessfully sought access in the past.) Previously, in a 17 January report, the Director General had informed the Council of the IAEA’s role with regard to monitoring and verification of the JPA.

On 13 February, the International Energy Agency reported that sales of Iranian crude oil rose by 100,000 barrels a day in January, to 1.32 million. It was seen as an early indication of the initial impact of the measures agreed to by the US as part of the JPA to suspend some oil-related restrictions on importers of Iranian oil. China accounted for most of the additional sales.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 18 December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on human rights in Iran expressing deep concern at serious recurring human rights violations and urging Iran to cooperate with special procedures’ mandate holders (A/RES/68/184)

On 22 January, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, issued a statement urging Iran to heed the calls for a moratorium on executions, especially in cases relating to political activists and alleged drug-offences. The statement—which was endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez— expressed alarm at sharp increase in hangings in Iran. At least 40 persons were reportedly hanged in the first two weeks of January and some 625 executions were carried out in 2013, without due process rights and for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” as required by international law.

During the 25th session in March, the Human Rights Council will consider the report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Iran and Shaheed’s report.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is whether developments in the ongoing talks with Iran should have any impact on the work of the Sanctions Committee and lead to a more cautious approach so as not to interfere with negotiations or whether, as some argue, it is essential to keep up the pressure on Iran—and even impose additional measures—for negotiations to succeed.

Options

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 long-term agreement has been reached.

Another option is to significantly slow down the work in the Committee 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 JPA and the launch of negotiations on a long-term agreement with Iran, reiterating the Council’s demands and expressing its willingness to suspend and eventually terminate all measures against Iran if it complies with all relevant Council resolutions.

Council Dynamics

Council members continue to have differing perspectives on the implications for the Sanctions Committee of the ongoing talks between Iran and the P5+1. The P3 and like-minded countries seem to think that until further notice the Committee should carry on its work on sanctions implementation. China and Russia on the other hand argue that the Committee needs to take a more cautious approach to avoid any potential negative impact on the negotiations. 

Because of these differences, Council members do not expect much action in the Committee in the foreseeable future. Still, it seems the chair has been trying to advance the discussions on the recommendations in the PoE’s 5 June 2013 report to be able to show some results before the next report comes out in May although they are likely to be minimal.

The US is the penholder in the Council on Iran.

UN Documents 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 Record
12 December 2013 S/PV.7082 This was the meeting record of a briefing by Ambassador Gary Quinlan, the chair of the 1737 Sanctions Committee.
Sanctions Committee Document
5 June 2013 S/2013/331 This was a report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee.
IAEA Document
20 February 2014 S/2014/116 This was an IAEA report to the Council.