Expected Council Action
In June, the Secretary-General is due to report on the implementation of resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. In addition, reports are expected from the Joint Commission, the mechanism established by the parties to the JCPOA to oversee its implementation, and from the Council’s 2231 facilitator, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy). The Council is scheduled to hear briefings by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Cardi, and a representative of the EU in its capacity as coordinator of the Joint Commission.
Key Recent Developments
The Council last considered the implementation of resolution 2231 on 18 January when it was briefed by Feltman, Cardi and the head of delegation of the EU to the UN, Ambassador João Vale de Almeida. The meeting took place just ahead of the 20 January inauguration of Donald Trump as US President; during his campaign Trump had seemed to call for the US to withdraw from the JCPOA. Feltman underscored that the international community must continue to support the full implementation of the JCPOA and asserted that the agreement would ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme remained exclusively peaceful.
Feltman also noted that, “as guided by the Security Council”, the report focused on the implementation of the provisions contained in annex B to resolution 2231 (which deals with the restrictions concerning Iran) and did not cover the implementation of annex A (which addresses the lifting of sanctions). In an 18 January letter to the Secretary-General, however, Iran wrote that exclusively focusing on annex B was a “misinterpretation of the mandate given by the Security Council” in its 16 January 2016 presidential note, and asserted that a report on the implementation of resolution 2231 could not be considered complete and balanced in the absence of reporting on annex A.
At the request of the US, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča briefed Council members in consultations on 31 January on a ballistic missile test conducted by Iran on 29 January. In a 10 February letter to the Council, Israel condemned the test as “yet another flagrant violation” of resolution 2231. On 3 February, the US announced that it was imposing sanctions on several entities and individuals for their involvement in activities supporting Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its Quds force.
Meanwhile, the IAEA, which is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, reported to the Council on 24 February that Iran had continued to implement its commitments.
On 19 April, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the Trump administration was conducting a review of its Iran policy. While he had sent a letter to the US Congress a day earlier confirming that Iran was complying with the JCPOA, Tillerson said the agreement “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran” and would only delay the country’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.
On 17 May, the US announced the sanctions designation of another seven entities and individuals connected to Iran’s ballistic missile programme but also renewed the waiver on its sanctions against Iran’s crude oil exports, as required under the JCPOA.
On 19 May, Hassan Rouhani was re-elected as president of Iran for another four years with 57 percent of the vote. The result was seen as a victory for the moderates and also as an expression of support for the JCPOA.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 22 March, during its 34th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Iran (A/HRC/34/40). The report, which covers the period from July to December 2016, expressed concern about the continuing high rate of executions, ongoing restrictions on public freedoms, and the persistent discrimination and persecution faced by minority groups. It welcomed the government’s invitation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Iran, and encouraged it to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, by allowing her access to the country.
On 24 March, the HRC adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one year and requesting her to report to the HRC at its 36th session and to the General Assembly at its 72nd session.
A key issue for the Council is whether any of the parties to the JCPOA or any other member state has failed to comply with resolution 2231 and, if so, what the appropriate response should be.
A further issue is whether the Secretary-General should report on the implementation of annex A.
One option for Council members is to use the upcoming meeting as an opportunity to express concern about any intentions to undermine the JCPOA while also responding to the Trump administration’s criticism of the agreement. They could also address some of the issues raised by Iran with regard to the Secretary-General’s reporting, perhaps by highlighting progress on the lifting of sanctions or expressing support for the view that he should report on the implementation of both annex A and annex B. Another option is to encourage Iran to participate in the meeting.
A further option is to adopt a statement expressing concern about Iran’s missile launches and the reported violations of the travel ban and conventional arms-related restrictions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members remain divided on the question of whether Iran’s missile launches are inconsistent with resolution 2231. Following the 31 January briefing on the missile launch two days earlier, it was agreed that discussions about the launch would continue at expert level in the so-called 2231 format and that the facilitator would report back about the outcome of those discussions. The 2231 format meeting was held on 2 March, during which two US ballistic missile technology experts gave a presentation in support of the US view that the missile systems used by Iran are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons due to their range and payload capacity and that the 29 January launch was therefore inconsistent with resolution 2231. Cardi reported on the discussions during informal consultations on 25 April under “any other business”, concluding that there was no agreement among members on the nature of the launch.
With regard to Iran’s continuing complaints about the Secretary-General’s reporting, some Council members, most notably China and Russia, are supportive of Iran’s views. During the 18 January meeting, Russia was highly critical of the Secretary-General’s report, referring to it as “one-sided and equivocal”, while asserting that the presidential note of 16 January 2016 referred to the entire resolution 2231 and not only to annex B. For its part, China said it had taken note of Iran’s “legitimate concerns with regard to the content of the reports” submitted to the Council. The P3 seem equally clear that the Secretary-General’s reporting mandate is limited to annex B, with the US seen as the most vocal on this.
|Security Council Resolution|
|20 July 2015 S/RES/2231||was on the JCPOA.|
|30 December 2016 S/2016/1136||was the last report on implementation of resolution 2231.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|18 January 2017 S/PV.7865||was the most recent Council briefing on resolution 2231.|
|20 March 2017 S/2017/234||was the most recent IAEA report.|
|10 February 2017 S/2017/123||was the letter from Israel regarding Iran’s 29 January 2017 ballistic missile test.|
|18 January 2017 S/2017/51||was Iran’s letter to the Secretary-General regarding his 30 December 2016 report.|
|18 January 2017 S/2017/49||was the most recent report from the 2231 Facilitator.|
|27 December 2016 S/2016/1113||was the most recent report from the Joint Commission.|
|16 January 2016 S/2016/44||was the note by the Council president on the tasks related to the implementation of resolution 2231.|