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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Security Council Adopts More Iran Sanctions
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Peter Crail

The UN Security Council March 3 adopted a third sanctions resolution responding to Iran’s refusal to comply with the council’s demands to suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities. Resolution 1803 calls on states to undertake additional efforts to prevent Iran from financing or procuring technology for its nuclear and missile programs, as well as broadening the existing sanctions imposed under two previous resolutions. The five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany agreed on pursuing the resolution as part of a “package deal,” seeking to impose additional sanctions on Iran on one hand, but also agreeing “to further enhance diplomatic efforts” to find a comprehensive long-term resolution to the nuclear issue as part of their “dual track approach.”

The council adopted the resolution with 14 votes in favor and Indonesia abstaining. Indonesian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Marty Natalegawa explained to the council following the March 3 vote that “Indonesia remains to be convinced of the efficacy of adopting additional sanctions at this juncture.”

A Modest Increase in Sanctions

Resolution 1803 reiterates the demands of three previous resolutions requiring Iran to suspend its activities related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, as well as work on its heavy-water reactor. These activities have civilian nuclear uses but may also be used to create fissile material for nuclear weapons. The council initially made this demand in Resolution 1696, adopted in July 2006. It reiterated this demand in two subsequent sanctions resolutions, 1737 adopted in December 2006 and Resolution 1747 adopted in March 2007.

The resolution requests that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report to the council and the IAEA Board of Governors by June 3 regarding Iran’s compliance with these obligations. The agency’s board is scheduled to meet June 2-6. ElBaradei issued a report on Iran’s nuclear program Feb. 22 indicating that although Tehran had increased its cooperation with the agency, it did not suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities and has not yet answered questions regarding suspected work related to nuclear weapons. (See ACT, March 2008. )

As in Resolutions 1737 and 1747, Resolution 1803 highlights that the council will suspend its sanctions as long as Iran carries out these demands and will terminate the sanctions as soon as the IAEA verifies that “Iran has fully complied with” its obligations to the Security Council and the IAEA. It also indicates that if Iran fails to meet these obligations, the council shall “adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII” of the UN Charter. Article 41 grants the council the authority to adopt nonmilitary measures in response to threats to international peace and security.

Resolution 1803 expands and strengthens some of the targeted sanctions measures included in Resolutions 1737 and 1747. For example, the resolution extends the financial restrictions contained in the two previous resolutions, such as funds and assets freezes, to an additional 13 persons and seven entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. It also calls on states to “exercise vigilance and restraint” regarding the “entry into or transit through their territories” of these 13 persons.

In a slight strengthening of the travel restrictions imposed by the two previous resolutions, Resolution 1803 requires that states prevent the travel of a select list of five persons involved in Iran’s nuclear program whom were designated under Resolutions 1737 and 1747.

Resolution 1803 also expands the scope of restrictions on nuclear- and missile-related technology transfers to Iran. For example, Resolution 1737 placed restrictions on the supply of items and technologies directly associated with nuclear programs, but the new resolution places similar restrictions on a list of dual-use nuclear goods that have nuclear and non-nuclear applications.

This prohibition on dual-use nuclear technology does not apply to transfers exclusively for use in light-water reactors (LWRs) or for nonprohibited IAEA technical cooperation with Iran. All such transfers, however, must be carried out under strict control, including verifying the appropriate end use after shipment and notifying the committee established under Resolution 1737 of such transfers.

The exemption for LWR-related transfers allows Russia to continue its work on Iran’s first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, scheduled for completion late this year.

In order for states to avoid financing Tehran’s proliferation activities, Resolution 1803 calls on all states to “exercise vigilance” regarding their firms that have dealings with Iran. In particular, it asks states to be wary of granting export credits, guarantees, or insurance to their businesses trading with Iran. The resolution also asks that states exercise the same caution in regard to activities between their financial institutions and Iranian banks, especially the state-owned Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and their branches and subsidiaries.

The United States has previously imposed financial sanctions on Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, Iran’s largest and second-largest state-owned banks, respectively. In October 2007, Washington placed restrictions on Bank Melli for its contributions to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and on Bank Saderat for its contributions to terrorist organizations. (See ACT, November 2007. )

The most controversial provision of the resolution calls on all states to carry out inspections of cargo going to and coming from Iran “at their airports and seaports” and of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line “provided there are reasonable grounds to believe” the cargo contains goods prohibited under the sanctions resolutions.

During the negotiations on the draft resolution in the council, some states, including Libya, South Africa, and Vietnam, expressed opposition to this provision due to legal concerns and the potential to incite hostilities. (See ACT, March 2008. ) Explaining South Africa’s vote in favor of the resolution March 3, Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, told the council that Pretoria “would have preferred that the resolution not contain the controversial provision” allowing such inspections “as this could spark confrontation.”

In order to address such concerns, language was added to the draft resolution requiring that these inspections be carried out in accordance with “national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements.”

As with the two previous resolutions, the resolution contains a call for states to report to a Security Council committee established under Resolution 1737 on the efforts they have taken to implement the sanctions within 60 days. Of the 192 UN members, about 85 states have submitted reports on their efforts under Resolution 1737, and about 71 have done so for Resolution 1747.

Further Developing Incentives

In addition to imposing sanctions on Iran, the resolution “stresses the willingness” of the five permanent members of the council and Germany “to further enhance diplomatic efforts” to find a comprehensive long-term settlement of the nuclear issue with Tehran.

Following the adoption of the resolution, the United Kingdom issued a statement on behalf of the group. The statement indicated that the six powers reconfirm the proposals they presented to Iran in June 2006 “and are prepared to further develop them.” According to the 2006 proposal, once Iran suspends its nuclear fuel-cycle activities, the six countries offered to negotiate a wide range of opportunities for technical, economic, and political cooperation with Iran, including European-Iranian nuclear cooperation. (See ACT, July/August 2006. )

Tehran formally rejected the proposal in August 2006. It claimed that, although the proposal contained “useful foundations and capacities for comprehensive and long-term cooperation,” it also had numerous ambiguities, in particular with regard to “Iran’s right to [a] peaceful nuclear program.”

A British diplomat told Arms Control Today March 19 that the primary reason for Tehran’s rejection of the offer was that it did not permit Iran to enrich uranium.

Since the 2006 offer was made, EU High Representative Javier Solana has held intermittent discussions with Iran on behalf of the six countries in order to open negotiations for a long-term settlement of the nuclear issue on the basis of the incentives package. These discussions have not been successful, and Solana said that he was “disappointed” with the latest talks in November 2007. (See ACT, December 2007. ) Resolution 1803 encourages these negotiations to continue.

The decision to further develop the incentives package was part of the overall agreement by the six countries on the draft sanctions they proposed to the council in February. (See ACT, March 2008. ) Russia and China conditioned their support for the additional sanctions on an agreement to repackage the incentives offer. A Russian diplomat told Arms Control Today March 3 that the agreement to enhance the incentives proposal was necessary in order for Moscow to support the draft sanctions resolution. Similarly, a German diplomat said March 5 that further work on the offer was also important to ensure Chinese support for the additional sanctions.

In a March 3 statement, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, told reporters that Moscow viewed the resolution and the statement of the six countries as a “package deal.” He highlighted that the statement is “extremely significant” as it does not just reiterate but expands on the June 2006 offer and asserted that it “deserves serious reflections on the Iranian side.”

European diplomats told Arms Control Today that the main purpose of “repackaging” the incentives offer is to demonstrate to the Iranian population the benefits that they would receive if Tehran decided to cooperate and suspend their nuclear fuel-cycle programs in order to enter negotiations. Several Western diplomats described the repackaging process as “ongoing.”

A British diplomat said March 19 that “the Iranian regime has been opaque with the Iranian people about the offer on the table,” adding that, should the Iranian public become aware of what the Iranian leadership was rejecting, “it may place public pressure on the regime.” The diplomat noted that the repackaging was largely clarifying the advantages that the Iranians would gain from cooperation.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. permanent representative to the UN, made a similar appeal in a March 4 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, citing in particular the U.S. recognition of Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Underlining the benefits that Iran would receive from the incentive package, he stated that the Iranian people “should know that the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have offered to help Iran develop civil nuclear power” if Iran complies with the council’s “very reasonable demand” to suspend enrichment.

The March 3 resolution and six-country statement were issued more than a week prior to the March 14 Iranian parliamentary elections. The elections did not result in substantial changes in the makeup of the Iranian parliament.

Iran Rejects Suspension, Dialogue

Even before the adoption of Resolution 1803, Iran reiterated its refusal to comply with the council’s demands to suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities. Speaking to the council prior to the March 3 vote on the resolution, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, stated in regard to suspension that “Iran cannot and will not accept a requirement which is legally defective and politically coercive.”

Iran also rejected the call by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany to pursue discussions on the nuclear issue on the basis of the incentives package. Iranian government spokesperson Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters March 15, “The issue of nuclear talks with the countries of the [five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany] is over.”

Unlike Iran’s response to the adoption of Resolution 1747, in which Iran curtailed its cooperation with the IAEA, Iranian officials have stated that Tehran will continue to work with the agency in line with its safeguards obligations. Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Tehran’s ambassador to the IAEA, told Iran’s Press TV March 4, “Iran will continue its cooperation with the IAEA in accordance with the IAEA statute, [the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], and its comprehensive safeguard[s] agreement.”

In March 2007, Iran suspended a subsidiary pact to its safeguards agreement that required Iran to provide design information for nuclear facilities as soon as it authorizes construction. Resolution 1803 underlines that the IAEA “has sought confirmation” that Iran will reapply this subsidiary agreement.


UN Security Council Resolution 1803

The UN Security Council on March 3 adopted Resolution 1803 imposing additional targeted sanctions on Iran for its failure to implement steps required in past resolutions, such as suspending its uranium-enrichment-related activities. The resolution was passed with 14 votes in favor and Indonesia abstaining. As with several past resolutions, Resolution 1803 was adopted under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the Security Council to take nonmilitary actions to threats to international peace and security.

The resolution expands on and strengthens some of the sanctions contained in Resolutions 1737, adopted in December 2006, and 1747, adopted in March 2007. These sanctions include travel and financial restrictions on Iranian personnel involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, controls over the transfer of certain nuclear- and missile-related goods to Iran, and constraints on providing Iran with major conventional combat systems.

In addition to sanctions, the resolution highlights the efforts by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to further develop their June 2006 incentives offer to Iran in order to negotiate a comprehensive resolution of the nuclear issue once Iran suspends its relevant nuclear activities.

In particular, Resolution 1803:

• Reaffirms that Iran must verifiably suspend all of its activities related to uranium enrichment, spent fuel reprocessing, and heavy-water reactor construction. It also reaffirms the call by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Iran to ratify and implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which provides the agency with enhanced inspection authority in order to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

• Welcomes the August 2007 work plan concluded between the IAEA and Iran to resolve all outstanding safeguards issues and the progress made in this regard as detailed in the Feb. 22 report of IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. It encourages the IAEA to continue its work to clarify these outstanding issues.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance and restraint regarding the entry or transit of Iranian personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs through their territories. The council decides that all states shall notify the Iran sanctions committee established pursuant to Resolution 1737 of the movement of additional Iranian personnel designated in an annex of this resolution.

• Decides that all states shall prevent the entry or transit of Iranian personnel designated in an annex to this resolution, as well as any additional persons designated by the council.

• Decides that all states shall freeze the financial assets and economic resources that are on their territories that are owned or controlled by the persons or organizations designated in annexes to the resolution.

• Decides that all states shall prevent the transfer of nuclear dual-use items and technology to Iran except for light-water reactors and IAEA projects. These transfers must be subject to strict controls. The council also decides that all states shall prevent the transfer of specialized materials, technologies and subcomponents that may be used in missile systems.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance in providing public financial support for trade with Iran, including granting export credits, guarantees, or insurance to entities involved in such trade.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance over their financial institutions involved with Iranian banks, especially Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, in order to prevent them from assisting the finance of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

• Calls on all states to inspect the cargoes to and from Iran of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line at their airports and seaports upon suspicion that such cargoes may be transporting items and technologies prohibited under the council’s resolutions. The council also requires that states must submit a report to the council within five working days regarding the details and rationale regarding such an inspection.

• Calls on all states to report to the Iran sanctions committee within 60 days on steps they have taken to implement the sanctions in the resolution.

• Stresses the willingness of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to further enhance their diplomatic efforts on the basis of their June 2006 offer to Iran in order to reach a long-term resolution of the nuclear issue so long as Iran verifiably suspends its sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities.

• Encourages European High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to continue communications with Iran in order to create the necessary conditions for resuming talks on a diplomatic solution.

• Requests a report from ElBaradei on Iran’s compliance with the resolution within 90 days.

• Reaffirms that the council shall suspend sanctions as long as Iran verifiably suspends its nuclear fuel-cycle activities to allow negotiations on a long-term resolution to occur.

• Reaffirms that the council will halt sanctions once the IAEA director-general confirms that Iran has complied with the obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions and meets the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors.

• Reaffirms that if the June 2008 report by ElBaradei demonstrates that Iran has not complied with the council’s resolutions, the council shall adopt further nonmilitary punitive responses.