Iran: Semi-Annual Briefing on the Implementation of Resolution 2231
Tomorrow (19 December), the Council will hold a briefing 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 will brief on the Secretary-General’s 8 December 2017 report (S/2017/1030) on the implementation of the resolution. In addition, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), the Council’s 2231 facilitator, will report on the work of the Council related to Iran; and the Head of the EU delegation, Ambassador Joâo Pedro Vale de Almeida, will brief the Council on the work of the JCPOA’s Joint Commission. (The EU is the coordinator of the Commission, which is made up of the eight parties to the JCPOA and is responsible for overseeing the agreement’s implementation.) In addition to Council members, Germany is expected to make a statement.
The Secretary-General’s report, which Feltman will present tomorrow, focuses on Iran’s compliance with the provisions contained in Annex B. (The provisions in Annex B include procedures for monitoring nuclear-related transfers or activities, restrictions related to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and conventional arms transfers, and travel ban and asset freeze measures). According to the Secretary-General’s report, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported an “absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities”. The report also states that since January 2016, no unauthorised transfers to Iran of nuclear-related items have been recorded, and since the last report of 12 July 2016 (S/2016/589), there have been no new reports of any ballistic missile launches or related transfers covered by the restrictions in Annex B.
The Secretary-General’s report notes that the 13 October decision by US President Donald Trump not to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and the potential legislative actions of the US Congress has created uncertainty regarding the future of the JCPOA and makes clear that national executive actions do not affect the validity of the Plan. In line with the Secretary-General’s report, Feltman may call on all participants to remain steadfast in their commitment to the full implementation of the agreement and work through their differences.
Another area that has seen some differences among members is the launch by Iran of a Simorgh space launch vehicle on 27 July. France, Germany and the UK wrote to the Secretary-General stating that they considered this a ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons and therefore inconsistent with Annex B of resolution 2231. The US shared this position. However, in a letter to the Secretary-General on 16 August, Russia underscored that there was nothing legally to stop Iran developing missile and space programmes and that resolution 2231 simply asked Iran to refrain from activates related to ballistic missiles that were designed to be able to carry nuclear weapons. Iran claimed in a letter to the Secretary-General on 23 August that the launch of the space launch vehicle was part of activity related to space technology. On 8 September, the Council discussed this launch but could not reach consensus on how the launch related to resolution 2231.
Members may be particularly interested in any further information Feltman may have on the allegations that the missiles launched at Yanbu and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels on 22 July and 4 November, respectively, contained parts obtained from Iran. Saudi Arabia maintains Iran had a role in manufacturing the missiles, a claim rejected by Iran. US ambassador Nikki Haley called a press conference on Thursday (14 December), where she presented pieces of weapons she said were made in Iran and supplied to Houthi rebels fighting the government in Yemen. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that the Secretariat has examined the debris and is reviewing all the information. It further suggests that the Council consider a joint briefing by the Panel of Experts on Yemen and the Secretariat in a joint meeting of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee and the Council in the “2231 format” on their respective findings at the appropriate time.
Cardi is expected to provide an update on the work of the 2231 Committee since his last briefing on 29 June. Among the areas covered may be the eight proposals submitted since June to participate with or permit activities by Iran for nuclear or non-nuclear civilian end uses. Altogether, since the implementation day (16 January 2016), there have been 24 proposals submitted for approval: 16 proposals have been approved by the Council, three were not, and five were withdrawn by the proposing state. Cardi may report on the recent 2231 Committee meeting on 13 December, where members discussed the latest report of the Secretary-General. In his statement, Cardi is expected to be very factual and to avoid controversy, given the sensitivities surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue.
Almeida is expected to review the work of the Joint Commission and its procurement working group. He may cover the 13 December meeting of the Joint Commission in Vienna and highlight key aspects of the implementation of the JCPOA nuclear and sanctions-related commitments, as well as procurement-related matters. In line with EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini’s speech on 12 December to the European Parliament, Almeida may stress the importance of preserving and implementing the JCPOA and the need to separate the nuclear agreement from Iran’s activities in the region.
The meeting will provide Council members with an opportunity to express their views over Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Most Council members believe that the JCPOA is working. However, the US under the Trump administration continues to be highly critical of the agreement. Trump’s decision not to certify the agreement triggered a 60-day deadline for Congress to re-impose sanctions. Congress let the 12 December deadline pass without taking any action. EU Council members are supportive of the JCPOA and may use this opportunity to express their concerns over any attempt to undermine the Agreement. The leaders of France, Germany and the UK issued a joint declaration on 13 October when Trump chose not to certify the agreement, expressing concern at “the possible implications” of Trump’s decision and affirming their commitment to the JCPOA. Russia and China have recently disputed whether the Secretariat may be going beyond its mandate and may raise this issue during the briefing. The issue of the scope of the Secretary-General’s report may be raised during the meeting. Iran has complained that the reporting so far has been too narrowly focused on the implementation of the provisions of Annex B, as opposed to reviewing implementation of the commitments in the JCPOA more broadly, including those related to the lifting of sanctions. Some Council members have, in the past, expressed similar concerns and may reiterate them tomorrow.