September 2015 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In September, the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is due to provide his quarterly briefing to the Council on the Committee’s work. The 1737 Committee is also likely to meet earlier in the month ahead of this briefing.

Key Recent Developments

On 14 July, the P5, Germany, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Iran reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme. In the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to the establishment of an international monitoring and verification system to ensure the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. In exchange, the agreement will result in the eventual termination of Security Council sanctions and all other multilateral and bilateral sanctions.

These are the key provisions of the landmark agreement:

The JCPOA also called for the adoption of a Council resolution endorsing the agreement, triggering its entry into effect within 90 days and beginning a process to end sanctions.  

On 20 July, the Council adopted resolution 2231. According to the resolution:

Despite the intention to terminate the resolution’s provisions in ten years, the P5, Germany and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy sent the Secretary-General a letter on 14 July stating they would seek a new Council resolution at that point. According to the letter, the new resolution would extend the mechanism for automatically re-activating the sanctions for a five-year period.

Resolution 2231 outlined how the “snap-back” mechanism for reactivating sanctions will function. Following a process to resolve concerns of Iranian non-compliance in the Joint Commission and between foreign ministers (detailed in the JCPOA), a member of the JCPOA, if still unsatisfied, can notify the Council that it believes there has been a significant issue of non-compliance. The sanctions automatically resume 30 days after this notification unless the Council adopts a resolution that continues the lifting of the sanctions. Such a resolution could thus be vetoed by any permanent member concerned about non-compliance.

Also on 20 July, the EU Foreign Affairs Council expressed its support for the JCPOA and resolution 2231. The 90-day period between the resolution’s adoption and the agreement’s entry into effect was created to allow the US congress time to review the deal. The agreement has set off a multi-million-dollar lobbying campaign for the US congress to reject the deal. US President Barack Obama said he would veto any resolution against the agreement. A two-thirds majority of US Senate members would be required to override a presidential veto. 

On 21 July, Iran’s parliament also set up a 15-member committee to review the nuclear deal, which has been criticised by Iranian conservatives as an affront to the country’s sovereignty.

On 12 August, a US State Department spokesperson said that a visit to Russia in late July by Major General Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds force, violated the Council’s travel ban. Suleimani was listed in 2007. The US said it would ask the Iran Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts to investigate the incident. Russia’s deputy foreign minister publicly denied the US claims.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 15 July, the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, called on the government of Iran and the international community to seize the opportunity created by the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme to address the human rights situation in the country. In a statement, Shaheed cited the alarming surge in executions this past year, increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies, violations of women’s rights, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and the ongoing prosecution of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders. The special rapporteur noted that the lifting of economic sanctions would have a beneficial effect on the human rights situation in the country, especially on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. He also renewed his call for the Iranian authorities to allow him to visit the country.

In a 5 August statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed alarm at the imposition of the death penalty on Mohammad Ali Taheri, the founder of a spiritual movement, writer and practitioner of alternative medicine theories used in Iran and abroad. He said, for an individual to be sentenced to death for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, religion or belief it is an absolute outrage and a clear violation of international human rights law. Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 people so far this year.

On 14 August, Shaheed issued a joint statement with the special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and Seong-Phil Hong, head of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, urging the Iranian government to immediately release Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s correspondent in Tehran. Iranian authorities detained Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, over a year ago, though she was subsequently released. According to the statement, Rezaian has been accused during closed proceedings of espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against Iran. Rezaian now awaits a verdict after his fourth and possibly final hearing. The statement noted that Rezaian, who is being held at Evin Prison in Tehran, was placed in solitary confinement for five months and subjected to full-day interrogation sessions that caused significant physical and psychological strain. His case is seen as part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran. The statement reminded the Iranian government of its responsibility to ensure that journalists do not face prosecution for exercising their professional activities.

Key Issues

The key issue will be the implications of the JCPOA and resolution 2231 for the 1737 Sanctions Committee and future work of the Council.

This includes preparations for the expected termination of the Committee and deciding on a mechanism to replace it in order to undertake the tasks that the resolution establishes for the Council, including monitoring and reviewing proposals related to nuclear-related exports to Iran, answering member states’ inquiries, providing guidance and examining information regarding alleged actions inconsistent with the resolution. In a joint statement, attached as an annex to resolution 2231, China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US propose that the Secretary-General report to the Council every six months on the implementation of the Joint Statement’s provisions. The Secretary-General is requested in the resolution to take administrative measures to facilitate communications between member states, the Council and the Joint Commission.

Options

One option is to establish, through the circulation of a letter, a Security Council expert-level working group for the consideration of Iranian issues, with one member serving as its coordinator.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Resolution 2231 was prepared in Vienna during the negotiations on the JCPOA between the P5, Germany, Iran and the EU. Elected members have been very supportive of the agreement, and when the draft resolution was presented to the Council, they supported the text and recognised the difficulties that would have been posed by opening up the draft for negotiation.

During the negotiation on the JCPOA, it was apparently very important for Iran that the deal represent an end to the sanctions and reflect a new relationship with the international community, no longer portraying it as a problem on the Council’s agenda. Iran was adamant that a sanctions committee should no longer exist. The US, which is the penholder on Iran, is in the lead on developing a mechanism that can still enable the Council to carry out the tasks given to it in resolution 2231. To a great extent, functions that are characteristic of a sanctions committee will be performed by the Joint Commission and its Working Group on Procurement.

Regarding the opposition to the JCPOA, if the US congress overrides a presidential veto (considered unlikely), the Iran sanctions regime would still likely come apart as European countries, Russia and China would probably move forward with lifting sanctions. Israel has continued to heavily criticise the agreement, described by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “historic mistake”. Gulf Cooperation Council members, despite their concerns, issued a joint statement with the US on 3 August expressing support for the agreement.

UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAN

Security Council Resolution
20 July 2015 S/RES/2231 This was a resolution that endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran.