posted on Fri 15 Jul 2016 5:02 PM
Briefing on Implementation of Iran Nuclear Agreement

On Monday (18 July), the Council will have 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 report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (S/2016/589). A briefing is also expected by Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain) in his capacity as the facilitator for Council-related tasks in the resolution. Ambassador Joâo Pedro Vale de Almeida (EU) is likely to address the Council on behalf of the EU, the coordinator of the Joint Commission, which is made up of the eight parties to the JCPOA and is responsible for overseeing the agreement’s implementation. Representatives of Iran and Germany may also make statements.

This is the first Council briefing since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on 16 January Iran’s fulfillment of actions required under the JCPOA for the termination of all previous Council resolutions and the lifting of nuclear related measures (S/2016/57). That same day, the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts were terminated, and the provisions in annex B of resolution 2231 came into effect. These provisions include procedures for nuclear-related transfers or activities, and restrictions related to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and conventional arms transfers. The annex proposed that the Council ask the Secretary-General to report to it every six months on the implementation of these provisions, which the Council formally requested in a presidential note on 16 January (S/2016/44).

Feltman is expected to focus his briefing on the Secretary-General’s report that Council members received in early July. According to the report, the Secretary-General is encouraged by Iran’s compliance with its nuclear related commitments under the JCPOA, which the IAEA has continued to verify in quarterly reports in March and June 2016 (S/2016/250; S/2016/535). However, it outlines several potential violations of the existing restrictions. These include Iran’s ballistic missile launches conducted in March 2016; the US seizure of a sailing vessel on 28 March near the Gulf of Oman transporting what the US believed were Iranian arms bound for Yemen; and potential violations of the travel ban and asset freeze, which continue to apply to 21 individuals and 63 entities. The report additionally outlined Iran’s concerns that it has not yet fully benefitted from the lifting of multilateral and national sanctions.

In previous discussions on ballistic missile launches following the adoption of resolution 2231, Council members have disagreed over whether they constitute a violation of the restrictions in the resolution. There are different views over the legal implications of the term “calls on Iran not to undertake”, rather than the unambiguous phrase “decided that Iran shall not undertake”, used in resolution 1929, which imposed further sanctions on Iran in June 2010. Furthermore, resolution 1929 prohibited “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons”, but resolution 2231 instead refers to “missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” It seems that China and Russia have argued that the restrictions on ballistic missiles are not legally binding obligations and that a missile must be explicitly designed to deliver a nuclear weapon to fall within the terms of the resolution. In his report, the Secretary-General notes that it is up to the Council to interpret its own resolutions, but expresses concern that the launches are not consistent with the spirit demonstrated by the signing of the JCPOA and could increase tensions.

Oyarzun is expected to brief on Council activities related to resolution 2216, which he has overseen as facilitator. This position was established in the 16 January presidential note, which also requested that the facilitator brief the Council every six months in parallel with the Secretary-General’s report. Since then, Oyarzun, as facilitator, has organised three informal meetings of Council experts (11 February, 1 April and 12 July); a 2231 Security Council website has been established; and arrangements have been put in place to enable cooperation between the Council and the Procurement Working Group of the Joint Commission for processing nuclear-related proposals submitted by member states under the procurement channel. So far the Council has received one proposal, which was later withdrawn. (This was for the temporary export of dual-use items to Iran for an exhibit). Oyarzun also organised an open briefing for member states on 1 March to explain the changes that came into effect on 16 January, which he is likely to refer to during his briefing.

Members have been trying to reach agreement on the report of the facilitator, which will serve as the basis for Oyarzun’s briefing. It seems that reaching agreement has proved sensitive, as this is the first report of the facilitator and could set a precedent for future reports. Spain circulated a draft report on 8 July, placing it under a “no-objection procedure” until 13 July, which has subsequently been extended. An informal meeting of Council experts was held on 12 July to discuss the draft report and to receive a briefing by a representative of the Security Council Affairs Division on the preparation of the Secretary-General’s report.

Earlier this afternoon (15 July), Spain organised a meeting of Council experts to try to resolve differences on the facilitator’s report. It seems the main issue has been Russia’s proposal to include a template for seeking arms transfers. As part of the restrictions in resolution 2231, arms-related transfers to Iran and Iranian arms exports and related material require Council authorisation on a case by case basis. The P3 have opposed including such a template. They have argued that it is not mentioned in the resolution and would not contribute to its implementation. Following this afternoon’s meeting, the facilitator’s report has been placed under a no-objection procedure until Sunday. It seems that a possible compromise might be to factually state in the report that Russia has made a proposal for a template but there is no consensus on having it.

In addition to outlining the activities of the facilitator and the new practical arrangements, the facilitator’s report is expected to cover the Council’s monitoring of actions that could be considered in violation of resolution 2231. On Iran’s ballistic missile launches, it seems that the report notes that there are divergent views among Council members on whether they represent violations, which they have been unable to resolve. Although not yet agreed on the report is expected to make several recommendations: that Council members should be united on the implementation of Resolution 2231; that the resolution must be applied in its entirety in both letter and spirit; and that implementation of the JCPOA must be conducive to the normalisation of economic and trade conditions with Iran. Some members may highlight in their statements the need for the Council to resolve the outstanding differences in their interpretation of the restrictions in resolution 2231.

Vale de Almeida’s is likely to focus on the procurement channel. A report of the Joint Commission has also been circulated to Council members, which apparently focuses on the procurement channel, the system that has been set up to monitor Iran’s acquisition of items for its nuclear programme.