July 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2016
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MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Expected Council Action

In July, the Secretary-General is due to submit a report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 2231 adopted on 20 July 2015, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is expected to brief on the report. A briefing by the Council’s 2231 facilitator, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is also due. In a 16 January presidential note, the Council requested the Secretary-General to report every six months on the resolution’s implementation and appointed one of its members to serve as a facilitator for the tasks relating to the resolution, including briefing the other members of the Council every six months, in parallel with the Secretary-General’s report. 

Key Recent Developments

On 16 January, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had taken the actions required under the JCPOA for the termination of all previous Council resolutions and the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, thus marking the arrival of the JCPOA’s implementation day. That same day, the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts were terminated, and the provisions in annex B of resolution 2231 came into effect. 

The new provisions provide for close monitoring of any nuclear-related transfers or activities involving Iran, and continued restrictions relating to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and conventional arms transfers. Most transfers of nuclear-related technology, technical assistance, financial services or investments are subject to advance approval by the Council through the so-called procurement channel specified in the JCPOA. Requests for approval are to be considered by the procurement working group of the Joint Commission, the mechanism established by the JCPOA parties to monitor its implementation. Decisions are made by the Council based on the working group’s recommendations.  

Annex B also includes a clause calling on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”, including launches. Ballistic missile-related transfers or activities involving Iran are subject to advance approval by the Council. With regard to conventional arms, states are called on to prevent the transfer of arms from Iran “except as decided otherwise by the Security Council in advance on a case-by-case basis”, while all transfers of arms to Iran are subject to advance approval by the Council.   

In addition, some asset freeze and travel ban listings remain in place. The new list, referred to as the 2231 list, includes the individuals and entities that were under sanctions prior to the adoption of resolution 2231, with the exception of 36 individuals and entities delisted on implementation day, as specified in annex B. Also, on 17 January, the Council removed Bank Sepah from the 2231 list, which now contains 23 individuals and 61 entities.

On 1 March, Oyarzun, in his capacity as facilitator, held an open briefing for member states to explain the changes that came into effect on 16 January.   At the time of writing, it seems the Council had only received one proposal under the procedures established by resolution 2231, and this was later withdrawn.  

In a 26 February report, the IAEA, which in resolution 2231 was assigned the task of undertaking the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, said that Iran’s stockpile of heavy water had briefly exceeded the agreed limit of 130 metric tonnes but confirmed that Iran had otherwise complied with all its commitments. The IAEA’s most recent report, issued on 27 May, confirmed Iran’s continued compliance with the JCPOA.   

On 8 and 9 March, Iran conducted several ballistic missile launches. Iran said that the launches did not violate either the JCPOA or resolution 2231 since the missiles were conventional defensive instruments. In response, Council members held consultations on 14 March at the request of the US and were briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.  

On 29 March, France, Germany, the UK and the US submitted a joint letter to the Council stating that the launches were inconsistent with resolution 2231 and calling for additional Council discussions on the matter. Subsequently, Council members met at expert level on 1 April to hear a briefing by US missile experts. They asserted that the missile systems used by Iran were inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons due to their range and payload capacity and that the launches were therefore inconsistent with resolution 2231.

On 28 March, the US Navy announced that it had confiscated a shipment of weapons which it believed was being transported from Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen, and that it was at least the third time in two months that such a shipment had been stopped. The US reported the interception to the Secretary-General and to the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee in early June. Also, there were reports that the commander of the Iranian Quds forces, Qassem Souleimaini, who is on the 2231 travel ban list, visited Moscow in April. 

In other developments, Iran’s oil exports in June were reportedly almost back to their pre-sanctions level of 2.5 million barrels per day, and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that trade between the EU and Iran had increased by 22 percent during the first four months of the year. On 19 June, Iran announced that it had reached an agreement with the US company Boeing to buy 100 airplanes, subject to the approval of US authorities. Iranian officials have nevertheless complained that the US is not living up to its sanctions-relief commitments and must do more to encourage banks to do business with Iran. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

The special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, released a joint statement on 8 June in which they said the current wave of incitement of hatred against the Baha’i community reflected in speeches made by Iranian officials had exposed the authorities’ “extreme intolerance for adherents of the religious minority group”. Since mid-May, 169 religious, judiciary and political leaders have allegedly openly spoken or written against the Baha’i community, and there are currently at least 72 Baha’is in prison solely because of their religious beliefs and practices, the statement said. The experts called on Iran’s government to end state-sanctioned discrimination against the group.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is what kind of reporting the Secretary-General and the facilitator should provide, in particular with regard to the non-nuclear related restrictions contained in resolution 2231.  A related question is the legal and technical interpretation of these restrictions.   

A further issue is whether there is a need for additional guidance to member states in light of the absence of any submissions under the procedures established by resolution 2231.   Council members seem unsure as to whether this is because member states are still not clear about the new measures, whether states are carrying out transfers and other activities without seeking the Council’s consent, or whether it is mainly due to Iran’s not taking steps that are necessary to facilitate such exchanges. 

Options

One option for the Council would be to issue a press statement following the briefing in July to clarify the restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and remind all member states of what is allowed and what is not allowed under resolution 2231.

Council Dynamics

As was clear from the discussions on Iran’s missile launches in March, Council members disagree on the interpretation of the relevant provisions in resolution 2231, in particular with regard to the legal implications of the term “calls on Iran not to undertake” as opposed to the unambiguous phrase “decides that Iran shall not undertake”, used in resolution 1929. Furthermore, resolution 1929 prohibited “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons”, but resolution 2231 instead refers to “missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”. It seems that China and Russia argue that the restrictions on ballistic missiles are not legally binding obligations and that a missile must be explicitly designed to deliver a nuclear weapon to fall within the terms of the resolution.  

It seems that these differences are also reflected in Council members’ views on what they expect from the Secretary-General’s report, and how much focus there should be on Iran’s compliance with the non-nuclear related restrictions.  

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
20 July 2015 S/RES/2231 This resolution was on the JCPOA.
9 June 2010 S/RES/1929 This resolution imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.  
Other
13 June 2016 S/2016/535 This was a letter transmitting the IAEA’s 27 May report.
15 March 2016 S/2016/250 This was a letter transmitting the IAEA’s 26 February report.
16 January 2016 S/2016/57 This was the IAEA report confirming that Iran had taken the steps required under the JCPOA for sanctions to be lifted.
17 January 2016 SC/12209 This was a press statement announcing the removal of an entity from the 2231 List.
16 January 2016 S/2016/44 This was a note by the Council president on the tasks related to the implementation of resolution 2231.