December 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 25 November 2015
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In December, the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is due to brief the Council on the Committee’s work.

Key Recent Developments

In his most recent briefing on 15 September, Oyarzun welcomed the 14 July Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme (JCPOA) and the Council’s subsequent endorsement in resolution 2231, adopted on 20 July. At the same time, he reiterated that the sanctions would remain fully in effect until the IAEA had confirmed Iran’s completion of the actions required under the JCPOA, defined as implementation day, and that the Committee therefore remained fully committed to continue its work.

On 15 October, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had completed all the activities set out in the road map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding its nuclear programme, as required under the JCPOA. The road map was agreed on the same day as the JCPOA, as a follow-up to the November 2013 framework for cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. On 21 September, the IAEA submitted a preliminary report to the Council on Iran’s implementation of the road map, noting that the agency’s Director-General had visited Parchin, a military site to which it had previously been denied access. A final report is due by 15 December.

On the JCPOA’s adoption day on 18 October (defined as 90 days after the adoption of resolution 2231), the EU announced it had adopted the legislative framework necessary for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions, while the US approved conditional sanctions waivers for Iran. Also on 18 October, the IAEA said Iran had confirmed that starting on implementation day, and pending ratification by its parliament, it would provisionally apply the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, as required under the JCPOA to strengthen international monitoring.  

The joint commission charged with monitoring implementation of the JCPOA—Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US)—held its first meeting in Vienna on 19 October. Participants discussed organisational aspects of the commission’s work and reviewed progress towards implementation.

In its 18 November report on implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement and relevant provisions of Council resolutions in Iran, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had started removing and storing enrichment centrifuges and taken other steps required under the JCPOA.  On 22 November, it was announced that Iran and the P5+1 had agreed on a document outlining their expected roles with regard to the redesign and reconstruction of Iran’s Arak nuclear reactor.

Meanwhile, Iran test-fired a new long-range, precision-guided ballistic missile on 11 October, in apparent violation of the provision in resolution 1929 banning it from engaging in any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches. Iran said the missile was for deterrence purposes only and denied any intention of aggression.

The US immediately condemned the launch as a violation of resolution 1929, as did other Council members, but also said that it did not violate the JCPOA. Subsequently, at the request of the US, Council members discussed the missile launch under “any other business” during consultations on 21 October. That same day, France, Germany, the US and the UK sent a letter to the Sanctions Committee describing the missile as “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon” and calling for appropriate action to be taken in response to the launch.

At press time, the Committee was scheduled to meet on the afternoon of 24 November to discuss the missile launch. Also on the agenda was the Panel of Experts’ midterm report, which was circulated to Council members on 6 November. The Committee has not met since 1 September, when it discussed implementation of resolution 2231.  

In other developments, on 29 October Iran attended for the first time international talks aimed at solving the crisis in Syria and also participated in a subsequent meeting on 14 November. On 9 November, Russia announced that it was moving ahead with a contract worth $800 million to deliver sophisticated surface-to-air missiles to Iran. The contract was first signed in 2007 but was suspended in 2010 following the imposition of additional UN sanctions against Iran.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The General Assembly’s Third Committee considered the report of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, on 28 October. The report welcomes the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal and its potential beneficial multiplier effect on the human rights situation in the country, especially on the enjoyment of economic and social rights. At the same time, it expresses alarm over the rate of executions; restrictions on freedom of expression; the exclusion of individuals from standing for public office; and restrictions on the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. On 19 November, the Third Committee adopted its annual resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.

On 11 November, Shaheed issued a statement calling on Iranian authorities to stop arresting, prosecuting and harassing journalists and online activists and provide a safe space for freedom of expression as the country prepares for parliamentary elections early next year. Moreover, he urged the government to release all journalists, including US journalist Jason Rezaian, who have been arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested for their peaceful exercise of fundamental rights.  

Key Issues

An immediate issue is how to respond at this stage to reported sanctions violations, such as the missile launch or alleged violations of the conventional arms embargo and the travel ban.

A wider issue is how to organise the Council’s future work on Iran following the expected termination of the Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts on implementation day. As outlined in resolution 2231, the Council will be charged with a number of new tasks to be carried out in close coordination with the joint commission. It is understood, however, that any mechanism perceived to function as a de facto sanctions committee would be unacceptable to Iran.

A further issue is how best to provide guidance to member states on their new obligations under resolution 2231.

Options

With regard to possible sanctions violations committed by Iran, one option for the Sanctions Committee is to do nothing.

Another option, if the Panel of Experts determines that a violation has taken place, is to write to Iran with the findings, inviting it to respond, as the Committee did in response to Iran’s July 2012 missile launches. A further option is to consider additional sanctions.

Yet another option is to start discussions on the Council mechanism that will be set up following the termination of the Sanctions Committee.

Council Dynamics

As was clear from their responses to Iran’s missile launch, Council members continue to have different views on how vigorously to pursue sanctions implementation at this stage. While the US and like-minded Council members characterised the launch as a clear violation that would require a response, Russia said publicly that a careful approach was needed and that the Committee must first look into technical details and take into account “political circumstances”. China also said that further consideration was needed to determine whether a violation had taken place. During the consultations on 21 October, there was no opposition to the matter being looked into by the Committee and Panel of Experts, but China, Russia and like-minded Council members emphasised the importance of preserving the JCPOA and avoiding any measures that could complicate its implementation. 

With regard to the question of what will replace the Sanctions Committee, it seems that discussions involving all Council members have yet to begin.

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.
Security Council Meeting Record
15 September 2015 S/PV.7522 This was a briefing by the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee chair, Ambassador Roman Oyarzun (Spain), on the work of the Committee.
Other
2 November 2015 A/C.3/70/L.45 This was the draft General Assembly resolution on Iran.
6 October 2015 A/70/411 This was the report of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.
21 September 2015 S/2015/728 This was the special IAEA report on implementation of the 14 July 2015 road map.