What's In Blue

Posted Wed 19 Sep 2012

Iran Non-Proliferation Briefing

Tomorrow morning (20 September), Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia—chair of the sanctions committee that deals with Iran (the “1737 Committee”)—is scheduled to present the regular 90-day report of the Committee’s work to the Council. These quarterly Council meetings on Iran are public briefings and it is customary for Council members to deliver statements following the chair’s briefing. (Under Rule 37 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council Iran is permitted to participate in the meeting, subject to a Council decision, although Iran has not sought to do so in the past.) No Council outcome following the briefing is being discussed.

Thursday morning’s report by the committee chair is likely to be brief and routine. It seems that the work of the committee—which makes its decisions by consensus under a “no-objection procedure”—has been straightforward since the last briefing and the committee itself has not needed to meet in recent months. However, Council members are likely to focus their statements on the wider political developments concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.

In particular, several Council members are likely to raise developments in Vienna where on 14 September the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded its third meeting of the year. The 35-member Board passed a resolution expressing “serious concern regarding the continued enrichment and heavy water-related activities in Iran”, an activity contravening both to Security Council—and its own—resolutions. The 13 September resolution (GOV/2012/50) was passed with 31 votes in favour (including all five permanent members of the Security Council), one vote against (Cuba), and three abstentions (Ecuador, Egypt and Tunisia).

The IAEA resolution also seemed to place a premium on the need to settle the issue with Iran peacefully, reiterating the Board’s support for a “comprehensive negotiated, long term solution”, commitment to a “constructive diplomatic process” and support for a “peaceful resolution of the international community’s concerns”. Council members are likely to emphasise these messages, particularly against the background of media reports addressing the prospect of Israel militarily striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Council members are also likely to mention the 30 August report of the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (GOV/2012/37). They are likely to be concerned that the IAEA continues to be denied access to the Parchin military site south-east of Tehran and that its ability to conduct effective verification has been “significantly hampered” by the demolition of some structures at the site and the concealment of others. Amidst assertions in the IAEA report that Iran had increased its production capacity at the site, some members—including the US—are likely to reiterate that the IAEA be granted immediate access to the site on the grounds that if Iran has nothing to hide it would not have reason to alter the site. (Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and that it has an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy.)

During tomorrow’s meeting some members may also raise the Secretary-General’s visit to Iran in late August where he attended the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran. A spokesperson for the Secretary-General’s office said that, in his meetings with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ban Ki-moon emphasised that Iran needed to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the IAEA and prove to the world that its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes.

Given the recent IAEA resolution on Iran, which was sponsored by all P5 members and Germany, there may be stronger statements from these members than in the past on the need for Iran to comply with its international obligations. There is also likely to be an emphasis on the need for the peaceful settlement of the dispute through negotiations rather than military means.

At present, there are eight elected Council members who are also members of the NAM. Some of these non-nuclear-weapons states may choose to reiterate—as South Africa has in the past—the “grand bargain” of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT): the promise of NPT nuclear-weapons states to share the benefits of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to pursue the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan, both nuclear-weapons powers but not signatories to the NPT, are likely to reiterate that Iran—as a non-nuclear weapon party to the NPT and IAEA member—has both rights and responsibilities and that these obligations should be fulfilled.

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