Expected Council Action
In December, the Secretary-General will 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, 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 was briefed on the implementation of resolution 2231 on 29 June by Feltman; the head of the EU delegation to the UN, Ambassador João Vale de Almeida; and Cardi. Feltman said that the JCPOA embodied successful multilateral diplomacy and stressed that its comprehensive implementation would guarantee that Iran’s nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful. At the same time, he quoted the Secretary-General’s reference to ballistic missile launches by Iran as “hav[ing] the potential to increase tensions”. Vale de Almeida said Iran’s nuclear programme “has been rolled back and placed under tight inspections” and non-nuclear issues could be more easily addressed because of the JCPOA. Cardi covered IAEA reporting on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Referring to a 29 January ballistic-missile launch by Iran, he said that there was no consensus in the so-called 2231 format on whether it was inconsistent with resolution 2231.
On 28 June, in a letter to the Council president and the Secretary-General, Israel accused Iran of using a target in the shape of a “Star of David”, during a test of a medium-range missile in December 2016. Iran denied the accusation in a 17 August letter of response.
On 27 July, Iran launched a rocket capable of carrying a 50-pound satellite. The following day, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) and Germany condemned the test in a joint statement, maintaining it was “inconsistent” with resolution 2231.
On 4 November, Saudi Arabia shot down a missile over Riyadh launched from Yemen by the Houthis, which it maintained had been obtained from Iran. Saudi Arabia has characterised the supply of missiles by Iran as an act of military aggression. Iran denied “supplying missiles to Yemen for the purpose of attacking Saudi Arabia” in a letter to the Council and the Secretary-General.
The IAEA’s most recent quarterly report on Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related obligations under the JCPOA released on 13 September said that Iran is continuing to meet its obligations.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 14 August, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, submitted her report to the General Assembly (A/72/322). The report highlights numerous serious human rights concerns, including restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and information; discrimination against women and religious and ethnic minorities; the use of torture in prisons; and the alarming level of executions, including juveniles.
In a joint statement on 18 October, Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, and Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Renate Winter said that Iran was continuing to execute juvenile offenders despite this being strictly prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to both of which Iran is a state party. According to the statement, Iran has executed at least four juvenile offenders since January, and at least 86 more are known to be on death row, although the actual figure may be higher.
Key Issues and Options
The 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.
One option is to use this meeting as an opportunity to express concern about any intentions to undermine the JCPOA, while responding to the US administration’s criticism of the agreement.
The Council could adopt a statement expressing concern about Iran’s missile launches.
A further option is to encourage Iran to participate in the meeting, as it has not to date taken part in the semi-annual briefings on the implementation of resolution 2231.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Most Council members believe that the JCPOA is working. However, the US under the Trump administration has been highly critical of the agreement, and on 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced that he would not certify the JCPOA, as called for every 90 days by the US Congress. He did not decertify the agreement, but requested Congress to establish specific provisions that Iran must adhere to in order to avoid sanctions. On the same day, the leaders of France, Germany and the UK issued a joint declaration expressing concern at “the possible implications” of Trump’s decision and affirming their commitment to the JCPOA.
Council members have been divided over whether or not ballistic missile tests are violations of resolution 2231. China and Russia maintain that the restrictions in resolution 2231 are not legally binding obligations and that a missile must be explicitly designed to deliver nuclear weapons for a test to be a violation. Other members—including the P3, Japan and Sweden—have generally taken the position that these tests are destabilising and against the spirit of the resolution.
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.|
|20 June 2017 S/2017/515||This was the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the resolution 2231.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|29 June 2017 S/PV.7990||This was the Council’s semi-annual meeting on resolution 2231.|
|Security Council Letters|
|7 November 2017 S/2017/936||This was a letter from Iran, denying that it had supplied missiles to Yemen that were used to attack Saudi Arabia.|
|17 August 2017 S/2017/719||This was a letter from Iran, denying that it had targeted a Star of David in a missile test on 15 November 2016.|
|28 June 2017 S/2017/555||This was a letter from Israel, accusing Iran of targeting a Star of David in a missile test on 15 November 2016.|