March 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 February 2015
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In March, the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is due to brief the Council on the work of the Committee. This will be Oyarzun’s first briefing since taking over the chairmanship from Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia) on 1 January.

Key Recent Developments

Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US) continued negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme following the announcement on 24 November 2014 that the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) initially agreed on 24 November 2013 would be extended until 30 June 2015. (The JPA, which came into effect on 20 January 2014, had an initial duration of six months and was first extended in July 2014.) The parties are working towards an end-of-March deadline to agree on a political framework containing the main elements of a final accord, leaving time for technical details to be worked out during the remaining three months.

While few details have emerged from the negotiations, it seems the main sticking points still centre on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity, the conditions and timetable for the lifting of sanctions and the duration of the agreement. In addition to the meetings with Iran involving all P5+1 partners, there have been several bilateral meetings between the US and Iran, including at the level of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif. Following meetings on the margins of a security conference held in Munich on 7 and 8 February, both Kerry and Zarif seemed to rule out an extension of the agreed deadline. On 9 February, US President Barack Obama said differences in the negotiations had been “sufficiently narrowed and sufficiently clarified” for Iran to decide whether it wanted a deal. At the end of the most recent bilateral round of meetings on 22 and 23 February, both sides said there was still a lot of work remaining. At press time, negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran were scheduled to resume on 2 March.

There was no further progress under the Framework for Cooperation agreed between the IAEA and Iran on 11 November 2013 involving a series of practical measures aimed at ensuring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. In a 19 February report to the Council, the IAEA Director General said that Iran had still not implemented two of the five practical measures agreed in May 2014, namely sharing information about its research into high-explosive detonators that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon and about neutron transport studies that could be relevant to calculate the explosive yield of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA had repeatedly invited Iran to propose additional practical measures but had received no response. The report noted, however, that Iran had continued to comply with the provisions of the JPA, as extended.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 18 December 2014, Quinlan presented his final quarterly briefing on the Sanctions Committee’s work. Quinlan welcomed the continued commitment of Iran and the P5+1 to reach agreement on a comprehensive solution but emphasised that the sanctions imposed by the Council remained fully in effect and that the Committee also remained fully committed to their implementation. He encouraged Iran to engage with the Committee and respond to its letters. (The Committee has sent four letters to Iran but has so far received no replies.) The Committee’s annual report was issued on 17 December.

On 4 February, the Committee held its first meeting under the new chair. It was briefed by the coordinator of the Panel of Experts, Salomé Zourabichvili (France), who said the Panel had received no further reports of violations. Referring to the P5+1 negotiations, she asked for some flexibility with regard to the deadline for submitting the final report to the Committee, due in May under resolution 2159, in order to fully reflect relevant developments. The Committee also reviewed the list of pending issues but Council members’ positions remained unchanged and no progress was made. (Pending issues include a US proposal to designate Jaysh Al-Shabi, a pro-government Syrian militia that has allegedly received arms from Iran, a proposal to send a letter to Iran concerning public statements by Iranian officials seemingly confirming its involvement in illicit arms transfers and a draft Implementation Assistance Notice on the Great Prophet exercise conducted by Iran in July 2012.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its upcoming 28th regular session in March, the Human Rights Council will consider the report on Iran by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, which contains 291 recommendations (A/HRC/28/12). Reports on the human rights situation in Iran from the Secretary-General (A/HRC/28/26) and another from the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/28/70) will also be considered.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is how it can best support the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 to ensure a positive outcome.

If there is a breakthrough in the negotiations by the March deadline, a further issue is what the implications will be for the Iran sanctions regime, in particular with regard to the timetable for the lifting of sanctions, including the provisions on conventional arms and ballistic missile technology.

Options

As long as the P5+1 talks with Iran are ongoing, options for the Council remain limited. The chair’s briefing will offer another opportunity for individual Council members to express their views on the talks and the role of the Committee in supporting the process.

In addition, elected members could request the P5 to brief them on the status of the negotiations. This would be particularly appropriate if there is a breakthrough that will require Council action at some point later this year.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Because of the delicate stage of the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, access to information is limited for Council members, and few are willing to speculate about the outcome or possible implications of a breakthrough for future Council action, although there are expectations that sanctions will be lifted in a gradual and reversible way.

With regard to the work of the Sanctions Committee, the P3 and like-minded members continue to emphasise that the Committee must remain focused on sanctions implementation and that member states should be reminded that the sanctions remain fully in effect. The main focus of Council members, however, seems to be on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran.

The US is the penholder on Iran.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
9 June 2014 S/RES/2159 This resolution renewed for 13 months the Panel of Experts assisting the 1373 Iran Sanctions Committee, without changes to its mandate.
Security Council Meeting Record
18 December 2014 S/PV.7350 This was a quarterly briefing by the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), on the Committee’s work.
Sanctions Committee Document
17 December 2014 S/2014/932 This was the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee’s 2014 annual report.
Human Rights Council Document
22 December 2014 A/HRC/28/12 This was the report on Iran by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.
IAEA Document
19 February 2015 GOV/2015/15 This was the latest IAEA report on Iran.