posted on Tue 17 Jan 2017 3:28 PM
Iran: Semi-annual Briefing on Implementation of Resolution 2231

Tomorrow afternoon (18 January), the Security 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 30 December 2016 report (S/2016/1136) on the implementation of the resolution. In addition, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), who took over the role as 2231 facilitator from Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain) on 1 January, 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. Iran, which did not participate in the first Council briefing on resolution 2231 on 18 July 2016, has not asked to speak.

The meeting tomorrow comes almost exactly one year after the JCPOA’s implementation day, which was 16 January 2016. On that day, all previous Council resolutions on Iran and the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee were terminated and the provisions of annex B of resolution 2231 came into effect. These provisions 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.

The Secretary-General’s report, which Feltman will present tomorrow, focuses on Iran’s compliance with the provisions contained in annex B. According to the report, no unauthorised transfers to Iran of nuclear-related items have been recorded since January 2016, and there have been no new reports of any ballistic missile launches or related transfers covered by the restrictions in annex B in the period since the last report of 12 July 2016 (S/2016/589). During the reporting period, five new proposals were submitted through the procurement channel, the mechanism established to handle requests for advance approval of transfers to Iran of nuclear-related technology, technical assistance, financial services or investments, by which the Council makes decisions on the basis of a recommendation from the procurement working group of the Joint Commission. Three of the proposals have already been approved by the Council.

Contrasting with the positive assessment of the implementation of the nuclear-related provisions of resolution 2231, the Secretary-General‘s report includes references to several accounts of arms transfers from Iran “undertaken contrary to the provisions of annex B”, as well as violations of the travel ban. In particular, it noted that France in July 2016 informed the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the seizure in March 2016 of an arms shipment in the Indian Ocean that France concluded had originated in Iran and was apparently bound for Somalia or Yemen. Similarly, the Secretariat recently received information from Australia about an arms shipment seized off the coast of Oman believed to have originated in Iran. The Shi’a militant group Hezbollah said publicly on 24 June 2016 that it received all its weapons and missiles from Iran. In addition, Israel claimed in a 21 November 2016 letter that Iran was using commercial flights to supply arms to Hezbollah. With regard to the violations of the travel ban, the report noted that several media outlets have reported that two individuals on the 2231 travel ban list, Quasem Souleimani and Mohammad Reza Naqdi, had travelled abroad, and in this regard called on states to uphold the travel ban for the individuals on the list.

Cardi’s briefing is likely to reflect the increase in Council activity related to the implementation of resolution 2231 in the period since the July meeting. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, the Council received five proposals through the procurement channel in the second half of 2016 as compared to just one, which was later withdrawn, in the first half of the year. Separately, the Council received a request from South Africa on 22 November 2016 for approval to export 100 missiles to Iran, as required by paragraph 5 of Annex B on conventional arms transfers. This request is still pending. In addition to reviewing Council activities, Cardi may cover the Council’s monitoring of actions that could be considered as contrary to the provisions of resolution 2231. His statement is expected to be very factual, however, 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. A short one-page report from the Commission was circulated to Council members on 27 December 2016 (S/2016/1113), focusing on the status of the working group’s decisions and any implementation issues, as required under the JCPOA. In his briefing tomorrow, Almeida may talk about the Joint Commission meeting that was convened on 10 January in Vienna in response to a 16 December letter from Iran calling for a meeting to discuss the US’ decision to extend the Iran Sanctions Act by another year. Iran had earlier written to the Secretary-General asserting that the extension was a violation of the commitments made by the US under the JCPOA, and requesting that he include this in his report on implementation of resolution 2231, which he did not do. In a press statement following its 10 January meeting, the Joint Commission confirmed that it had met in response to the concerns raised in the letter from Iran. It went on to say that “all sides reaffirmed their strong commitment to continued full and effective implementation of the JCPOA”. It also highlighted the commitments to lifting of sanctions made in the JCPOA and “recognised the US’ assurance that extension of the Iran Sanctions Act does not affect in any way the sanctions lifting Iran receives under the deal or the ability of companies to do business in Iran consistent with the JCPOA.”

The meeting tomorrow will provide Council members with an opportunity to express their views clearly on the state of implementation of the JCPOA. Their statements are likely to reflect some of the views expressed in a meeting last Friday, when Council members had an initial discussion of the Secretary-General’s report at expert level. At that meeting, it seems that Council members welcomed the positive assessment of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of resolution 2231, but expressed concern about the reports of violations of the conventional arms-related restrictions and the travel ban. It seems that the issue of the scope of the Secretary-General’s report was also discussed, as 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 apparently expressed similar concerns on Friday. Issues related to progress in the lifting of sanctions on Iran are therefore likely to be raised in the debate tomorrow.

The meeting tomorrow is also seen as an opportunity to send a message to the incoming US administration, as some of the statements made by US president-elect Donald Trump and some of his key cabinet appointees have raised doubts about the future commitment of the US to the agreement. Council members are expected to be united in expressing strong support for the JCPOA and to caution against any attempts to undermine or renegotiate it.