June 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 May 2014
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In June, the Council is due to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee. Later in the month the chair of the Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), is scheduled to present his quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work.

Key Recent Developments

Since Quinlan’s last briefing, on 20 March, there have been no further meetings of the Sanctions Committee. The work appears to be on hold as Council members have been awaiting the PoE’s final report under resolution 2105 against the background of intensifying talks between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US).  

Iran and the P5+1 have continued to hold monthly high-level meetings to negotiate a long-term accord on Iran’s nuclear programme as agreed in the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). (The JPA, which took effect on 20 January, set out several measures to be undertaken during an initial six-month interim period, including curbs on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, reductions in its stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, improved access for the IAEA and a partial lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed by the EU and the US. It also specified the main elements of a long-term comprehensive solution to be negotiated during the interim period.) The parties last met in Vienna from 14-16 May to start drafting a text with the aim of reaching agreement before the 20 July expiry of the JPA. (The JPA, however, can be extended by mutual consent for six months if agreement has not been reached by then.)  

According to media reports, no tangible progress was made at the last meeting. In particular, positions remain far apart on the key issue of Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity. Iran wants to expand the number of centrifuges it uses for uranium enrichment, but the P5+1 have called for a significant reduction. (Relevant Council resolutions call for Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.) Iran’s refusal to discuss its ballistic missile programme seems to have further complicated the talks. In comments to the press, both sides described the negotiations as very difficult but also indicated that they thought it was still possible to reach a deal before the 20 July deadline. The next high-level meeting is scheduled for 16-20 June.

Meanwhile, discussions continued between Iran and the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues related to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme. In a joint statement following a meeting on 20 May, the two sides said they had “reviewed the good progress that had been made” on the seven practical measures agreed in February and had reached agreement on five additional measures, including Iran providing information relating to allegations it had conducted large scale high explosives experimentation in the past. Iran had also agreed to share information on and facilitate access to its centrifuge-related research, development and production activities and conclude the safeguards approach for the heavy water reactor in Arak.  On 23 May, the IAEA submitted its quarterly progress report on Iran to its board of governors and the Security Council. It is to be discussed at the next board meeting in early June. The report confirmed that Iran had implemented the seven practical measures agreed in February and continued to comply with the JPA requirements.

The Sanctions Committee received the PoE’s final report under its current mandate on 7 May. At press time, the Committee was scheduled to consider the report in early June.  According to the PoE, there has been a decrease in reported attempts by Iran to procure prohibited items, but it is not clear whether this decrease reflects a change in practice or whether Iran has simply become better at circumventing the sanctions provisions. The report also notes that, despite several allegations in the media about Iran’s violating the ban on conventional weapons exports, only one case has been reported to the Committee, namely the interception by Israel of an arms shipment destined for Gaza on board the cargo ship Klos-C. (The PoE is investigating the case and will submit an incident report to the Committee.)

With regard to Iran’s ballistic missile programme, the PoE asserts that Iran is continuing to engage in prohibited activities, highlighting in particular the construction of a new launching pad near the town of Shahrud and Iran’s announcement that it test-fired a long-range Barani missile on 10 February. It also notes, however, that Iran did not conduct any missile launches in 2013. The report’s recommendations are apparently less specific than in the past, focusing in particular on the Committee’s role in providing additional guidance to member states, raising awareness and encouraging greater vigilance to strengthen sanctions implementation.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 12 March, four special rapporteurs for the Human Rights Council (HRC) expressed alarm at the steadily increasing rate of executions in Iran: in 2014, at least 176 persons have been hanged. They also expressed serious concern about due process and fair-trial guarantees and urged Iran to heed the calls for an immediate moratorium on executions.

On 17 March, the HRC held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, who presented his report (A/HRC/25/61). Shaheed said that hundreds of individuals reportedly remained in some form of confinement for exercising their fundamental rights, including journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, Baha’i, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Dervish Muslims. He said that his report focused on malfunctions in the administration of justice and reiterated his call for a moratorium on the death penalty. The Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in Iran, presented to the HRC by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri on 26 March (A/HRC/25/26), also expressed concern about the surge in executions and called for a moratorium. On 28 March, the HRC extended the mandate of Shaheed for one year in resolution 25/24 and called on Iran to allow the rapporteur to visit the country.

On 10 April, five HRC special rapporteurs expressed alarm at the denial of medical care to two political prisoners in Iran, blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari and religious cleric Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, who were deemed to be at risk of dying in detention due to their worsening health.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is how it can best support the ongoing talks between Iran and the P5+1.

A further issue in June is the renewal of the PoE’s mandate.

At the Sanctions Committee level, a key issue is whether to take up any of the recommendations in the PoE’s latest report.

Options

The main option for the Council in June is to renew the PoE’s mandate, possibly for a shorter term than in the past, and receive a briefing by the chair of the Sanctions Committee.

Other options are limited, given the present stage of the talks between Iran and the P5+1.   

In the Sanctions Committee, the main option is to consider the PoE’s latest recommendations.

Council Dynamics

While there is no disagreement in the Council that member states must continue to fully implement all UN sanctions against Iran, it seems clear that the developments in the talks between Iran and the P5+1 are having an impact on the work of the Sanctions Committee. China and Russia in particular have emphasised that the Committee must be guided by the ongoing negotiation process. While other members so far have publicly insisted that the work must continue as before, their priorities are also likely influenced by the status of the talks.  It remains to be seen, however, how this will play out in the upcoming discussions in the Committee about the PoE’s latest report. The chair’s briefing in June may also provide more clarity on how Council members view recent developments in the talks with Iran and their implications for the work of the Council.  

It seems the Committee chair is also considering convening an open briefing for UN member states aimed at explaining how the P5+1 track with Iran relates to the UN sanctions regime. At press time, he was consulting with other Council members about the timing and format for such a meeting. (According to the PoE, there seems to be some confusion among member states as to whether UN sanctions should still be enforced.)  

The US is the penholder in the Council on Iran.

UN Documents on Iran

Security Council Resolutions
5 June 2013 S/RES/2105 renewed the PoE’s mandate until 9 July 2014.
23 December 2006 S/RES/1737 imposed the first round of sanctions against Iran and established the Sanctions Committee.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 March 2014 S/PV.7146 was the most recent 90-day briefing.
Sanctions Committee Documents
5 June 2013 S/2013/331 was the previous report from the PoE. (At press time, the latest report had yet to be made public.)
Human Rights Council Documents
7 April 2014 A/HRC/25/26 was the Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in Iran.
18 March 2014 A/HRC/25/61 was the report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Additional Useful Resources

Iran and the P5+1: Solving the Nuclear Rubik’s Cube, International Crisis Group, 9 May 2014.

Enrico Carisch and Loraine Rickard-Martin, United Nations Sanctions on Iran and North Korea: An Implementation Manual, International Peace Institute, March 2014.

Sanctions Implementation and the UN Security Council: The Case for Greater Transparency, SCR/International Peace Institute, March 2014.