June 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2015
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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 assisting the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee. (According to resolution 2159 the mandate expires on 9 July, but the Council expressed its intention to take action regarding further extension by 9 June.) Later in the month, the chair of the Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is scheduled to brief the Council.   

Key Recent Developments

On 2 April, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US) announced that they had reached “solutions on key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and would start writing a text with the aim of reaching a final deal by 30 June. (On 24 November 2014 the parties extended the Joint Plan of Action initially agreed on 24 November 2013 until 30 June 2015, but set an initial deadline of 31 March for agreeing 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.) 

The US issued a press release that same day outlining what was termed “key parameters … that were decided” in the negotiations. According to this, Iran agreed to:

  • reduce by approximately two-thirds the number of installed centrifuges for enriching uranium, from some 19,000 to 6,104, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for ten years;
  • not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years and reduce its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.
  • convert its Fordow facility so that it can no longer enrich uranium;
  • redesign and rebuild the Arak heavy-water research reactor so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium; and
  • implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, grant expanded access for verification purposes and implement an agreed set of measures to address concerns about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear programme.

According to the press release, if Iran “verifiably abides by its commitments”, US and EU sanctions would be suspended. If, on the other hand, Iran at any time fails to fulfil its commitments, the sanctions would “snap back into place”. With regard to sanctions imposed by the Security Council, all existing resolutions on Iran would be lifted simultaneously with Iran’s completion of its commitments. However, at the same time, core Council provisions dealing with transfer of sensitive technology and activities would be re-established by a new Council resolution endorsing the final agreement and urging its full implementation. Such a resolution would also create a special, dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear programme, to monitor and approve the transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual-use materials and technology. It would include continued restrictions on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles as well as provisions on cargo inspections and asset freezes. In subsequent comments, however, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that some of the parameters listed by the US contradicted what Iran believed had been agreed.

At press time, talks were continuing in Vienna after several rounds of negotiations elsewhere, including in New York on the sidelines of the review conference for the Non-Proliferation Treaty from 27 April to 22 May. The modalities for the lifting of sanctions apparently remained a key sticking point, with internal differences among the P5 possibly adding to the difficulties.  While the US has made clear it wants to make sure that any lifting of UN sanctions can be easily reversed—what negotiators refer to as “snapback”—Russia seemed to argue in comments to the press that even if Iran is found to be in non-compliance with a final accord, sanctions should not be automatically re-imposed. Another main sticking point appeared to focus on the monitoring and verification measures to be included in the agreement, in particular with regard to access by inspectors to military sites.

On 14 May, the US Congress approved a bill that will require President Barack Obama to send the text of any final agreement with Iran to Congress for review as soon as it is completed. The bill gives Congress 30 days to review and vote on the agreement, during which congressionally imposed sanctions against Iran cannot be lifted. (If the agreement is submitted after 10 July, the review period will be 60 days.)    

Sanctions-Related Developments

The last 90-day briefing was held on 24 March. Oyarzun reiterated what his predecessor said in briefings last year—that the measures imposed on Iran by the Council remained fully in effect while negotiations with the P5+1 continued and that member states remained obliged to implement them. He said that no new incidents had been reported to the Committee since the previous briefing in November.

The Sanctions Committee has not met since 4 February. At press time, it was scheduled to meet on 1 June to consider the final report of the Panel of Experts under resolution 2159. According to the report, available to Council members in April, the Panel had not received any new incident reports from member states about illicit Iranian procurement activities. However, this did not necessarily mean that there had been a reduction in such activities; it could reflect general caution among states about any action that could negatively impact the ongoing negotiations. The report noted that the UK had informed the Panel that it was aware of an active Iranian procurement network involving an entity under UN sanctions, Kalay Electric Company. Other member states had also informed the Panel that they believed Iran’s procurement practices and sanctions circumvention techniques remained unchanged. There were no new recommendations in the report, but the Panel referred to those in the previous report as still valid. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 27 March, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran that also extended the mandate of the special rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, for one year. On 8 May, Shaheed and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, issued a statement condemning the sharp increase in executions in Iran and urging the government to establish a moratorium with a view to abolishing the practice altogether. According to the statement, between 9 and 26 April as many as 98 prisoners were reported to have been executed, an average of more than six per day, bringing the total number of executions since 1 January to more than 340, including at least six political prisoners and seven women. In many instances, executions had gone unreported by official sources, and the names of prisoners had not been published, the statement added.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is what action will be required in the event of an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 and the future role of the Council in monitoring compliance with the agreement. It is clear from media reports that discussions are already well under way among the P5 on the new Council resolution foreseen as part of the agreement, but key details still have to be worked out as part of the larger deal. However, there is no current mechanism for the P5 to keep the Council’s elected members at least minimally informed about the negotiation process and the planned Council resolution.

A related issue is whether the review bill adopted by the US Congress will have an impact on the timing of any Council action.

Another key issue for the Council in June is the mandate renewal for the Panel of Experts in light of the uncertainties surrounding the outcome of the negotiations; and whether there should be any follow-up Committee action at this stage in response to the Panel of Experts’ report.

Options

Options for the Panel of Experts’ mandate renewal include:

  • taking a business-as-usual approach, i.e. extending the mandate unchanged for another 13 months, but adding a new review provision;
  • adopting a short technical roll-over of a few months; or
  • taking no action at this stage and instead waiting to see if an agreement is reached in order to incorporate any changes that might be required in relation to the Panel and the role of the Committee. 

In addition, elected members could request a briefing by the P5 on the current state of the negotiations with Iran, in particular on the main elements of the future resolution referred to in the framework agreement, opportunities for elected members to be involved in the process and the expected timing of Council action.

Council Dynamics

Given the current stage of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, Council members remain in a waiting mode. There is some frustration among elected members about the lack of information, in particular as to what to expect in terms of Council action, but there is also an understanding that the political realities in this case make it hard to have an inclusive process.

With regard to the Panel of Experts’ mandate renewal, some Council members believe the best solution at this stage, given the uncertainties about the outcome of the negotiations with Iran and the potential for additional delays, would be to simply extend it for another 13 months with the understanding that the Council can review it at any time if required. It seems, however, that a short-term technical roll-over is considered the more likely outcome.     

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
24 March 2015 S/PV.7412 This was a briefing by Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee.
Other
27 March 2015 A/HRC/RES/28/21 This was the Human Rights Council resolution on Iran.
12 March 2015 A/HRC/28/70 This was the advanced unedited version of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.