What's In Blue

Posted Fri 12 Jul 2013

Briefing by the Chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee

On Monday (15 July), Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, is scheduled to present the 90-day report of the Committee’s work to the Security Council. This briefing was initially scheduled for 13 June but was postponed in the absence of agreement between the 15 Committee members on the text of the briefing. During consultations at ambassadorial level on 25 June, it was agreed that the Committee should make a last effort to come to an agreement, but that if no compromise had been found within ten days, the chair would present a report reflecting the divided views of Committee members. These quarterly Council meetings on Iran are public briefings which allow member states to attend but not to participate. It is also customary for Council members to deliver statements following the briefing.

It seems that a draft text of the chair’s 90-day report was circulated this afternoon with the understanding that if there are no objections by Monday morning, this text will be used for the briefing. (The Committee makes its decisions by consensus under a “no-objection procedure” and even the chair’s statement to the Council requires agreement from all members of the Committee.)

Apparently the issue that the members of the Committee disagreed over was whether to characterise the Great Prophet 7 exercises, during which Iran launched ballistic missiles, as a violation of Council resolutions. An 11 January 2013 “incident report” submitted by the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee concluded that the “launches of the Shahab 1 and 3 missiles during the Great Prophet 7 exercises held from 2 to 4 July 2012 constituted a violation by the Islamic Republic of Iran of paragraph 9 of resolution 1929 (2010)”. There was disagreement with how to reflect the differences of opinion over this conclusion by the PoE in the chair’s statement.

It seems that while most member countries agreed that the Great Prophet 7 launches were a violation of resolution 1929, Russia and China were not convinced that a violation had taken place. These countries argued that there was not enough evidence and that in addition the Council should take into account the forthcoming change of government in Iran and not put too much pressure on it immediately. It appears the US strongly felt there was a need to clearly state that the Great Prophet 7 exercises were a violation. Finally, compromise language was found today reflecting that a number of Committee members agreed with the PoE that the launches constituted a violation of resolution 1929 while at this stage there were some Committee members who could not share this view. It is likely that the Committee will continue to discuss this further as there appears to be some intention of providing an update on this issue to the Council during the next 90-day briefing.

While some Committee members would have preferred to have had consensus on this issue there was agreement from almost all members that postponing the briefing again was not an option. Some members also voiced concern that the delay in the 90-day reporting cycle, besides setting a bad precedent, impacted on national implementation reporting and disrupted the Committee’s reporting cycle. It seems that there may be an attempt to ensure that the reporting cycle gets back on track by scheduling the next chair’s report in September.

There was also some discussion over how to reflect Iran’s lack of response to attempts to get it to respond to the conclusion arrived at by the PoE. On 12 April the Committee chair wrote to Iran asking for its comments within fifteen days on the incident report by the PoE. Subsequently, the UK, as President of the Council in June, followed up to check if there would be response from Iran. Apparently the Committee is currently considering follow-up action on this matter.

The latest PoE report circulated on 5 June (S/2013/331). It asserts that Iran is continuing to violate the sanctions regime both through illicit arms transfers and by attempting to source prohibited items and technology for its nuclear programme and highlights new methods used by Iran to circumvent the sanctions regime. The Committee first met on 28 May to consider the report following which it held several informal consultations to come to an agreement on the chair’s report. On 24 June, together with the PoE, the Committee chair held an open briefing for interested member states on the mandate and activities of the Committee which was followed by a question and answer session. On 5 June 2013, the Council adopted resolution 2105 extending the mandate of the PoE until 9 July 2014. On 3 July, the PoE submitted its programme of work for the coming year as requested in resolution 2105.

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