posted on Tue 24 Jun 2014 2:21 PM
Briefing by the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee Chair

Tomorrow afternoon (25 June), the chair of the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), will present his 90-day report on the work of the Committee to the Security Council. Council members are expected to make statements as well.

While the main focus of the meeting will be on developments in the Committee and sanctions implementation, Council members are likely to also comment on the status of the talks between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US), which are now at a critical stage with less than four weeks remaining before the 20 July deadline set by the parties to reach a comprehensive agreement. Recent media reports following the latest round of negotiations in Vienna from 16-20 June have not been very encouraging, with the two sides apparently remaining far apart on the question of how much uranium-enrichment capacity Iran should be allowed to retain. Still, it seems the talks produced a tentative draft of a final agreement and negotiations are set to resume on 2 July. If indeed an agreement is reached, this will have important implications for the Security Council. For example, any provisions allowing Iran limited uranium-enrichment capacity would be incompatible with current Council resolutions demanding the suspension of all uranium enrichment activities.

In terms of developments in the Committee, the chair is expected to brief on recent discussions of the latest report by the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee (S/2014/394). (It was submitted to the Committee on 7 May and made public on 11 June). In the report, the PoE stresses that the prospect of a comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5+1 has “dramatically shifted the context in which the Panel works” and highlights as a challenge that there is a degree of confusion among member states as to whether UN sanctions against Iran remain fully in force. One of the report’s conclusions is therefore that member states need additional guidance regarding the status of the sanctions imposed by the Council in the event of an agreement with Iran.

The report also recommends that the Committee provide additional clarification to member states regarding their reporting obligations in cases of possible incidents of non-compliance, in particular with regard to the content, timing and sequencing of reporting steps. (The report notes that the existing reporting requirements do not work well in practice, citing as evidence that no state has ever reported an incident within five working days of an interdiction as prescribed by the Council in resolution 1929).

Other recommendations in the report—several of which have appeared in previous reports—are mostly directed at member states. States are encouraged to provide the Committee with additional information regarding designated individuals, in particular bio-identifiers, and to also share information, together with financial institutions, on different types of proliferation financing to promote a better understanding of such activities. In addition, states are advised to alert manufacturers of dual-use goods as well as carriers and freight forwarders of the need for additional measures and increased vigilance to prevent their goods and services from being used by Iran for prohibited activities and to provide open public registries of companies to help identify front companies and designated individuals and entities.

The Committee first discussed the report in a meeting on 2 June. While most Council members expressed support for its recommendations and called for follow-up action, it seems China and Russia once again emphasised the need for a cautious approach so as not to undermine the P5+1 process and had reservations about several of the report’s conclusions. The chair’s briefing is therefore likely to reflect that further discussions will be required as to whether there will be any follow-up.

In addition, the chair is likely to brief the Council on some other recent discussions in the Committee. In “informal informals” on 6 June, Committee members considered the need to update the list of designated individuals to provide additional identifiers, including the need to address the fact that several individuals no longer hold the positions referred to in the official sanctions list. (This seems to be particularly relevant with regard to designations of former leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps referred to in resolutions 1737 and 1747.) It seems there was no opposition to starting a process to update the lists.

The Committee also met on 23 June to discuss the PoE’s most recent incident report. The report was on Israel’s interdiction on 5 March of a cargo of long range rockets aboard the Marshall Islands-owned and Panama-flagged ship Klos-C. According to Israel, the rockets had been shipped by Iran and were destined for Gaza. The PoE confirmed the allegations and concluded that the incident was a violation of the arms embargo against Iran, but did not make recommendations for any follow-up action. Meanwhile the US, during the 23 June meeting, proposed that the Committee write a letter to Iran on the incident and also issue an Implementation Assistance Notice. While the chair is likely to speak about the report in his briefing, it appears that, due to opposition from some Council members, he will not refer to the PoE’s conclusion that the incident constituted a sanctions violation.

The chair could also announce his intention to hold an open briefing for member states after the 20 July deadline. The purpose of the briefing would be to explain the relationship between the P5+1 process with Iran and the Council and to clarify any questions relating to UN member states’ sanctions obligations in this regard. Given the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the P5+1 talks, however, the chair is not expected to elaborate on his plans at this stage and no date has yet been fixed. (The last open briefing for member states was held on 24 June 2013.)

In a separate development, the Council on 20 June received the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Directors on the status of Iran’s nuclear programme in relation to the interim 24 November 2013 joint plan of action agreed between the P5+1 and Iran. The report confirms that Iran has continued to fulfill all of its obligations under the plan.