John Burroughs

This afternoon a British/French draft of a resolution on Iran was made informally available outside the Security Council chambers.

The draft states that the Council is “acting under Chapter VII” of the UN Charter. This means that it is based upon a finding of a threat to international peace and security, is legally binding and could be the basis for later imposition of sanctions or authorization of force. When asked about the draft outside the chambers, China’s representative, Amb. Wang, said that China will not accept a Chapter VII resolution. Russia’s position has been similar. Some elected members of the Council might also prefer a non-Chapter VII resolution but the “E10″ (the ten elected members of the Council) so far have not attempted to press their views, leaving dealing with Iran up to the “P5″ (the permanent five members).

It is somewhat unusual for a draft to be released before the P5 have reached agreement, indicating that Britain, France and the United States may be seeking to increase the pressure prior to a possible meeting involving foreign ministers in New York next week.

Some quick reactions to the draft: As I told some elected members of the Council in a meeting organized by Greenpeace International yesterday (see “Options for the Security Council”), there is no basis for a finding of a threat to international peace and security. Further, it is hard to see how a hard-line resolution confronting Iran is going to lead to a productive outcome. The draft requires Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities. Also, going beyond the presidential statement and the February IAEA board resolution, it requires Iran to suspend construction of a heavy water reactor. Previously Iran had been asked only to consider this step. Iran likely would not react positively to these requirements. Iran has said it will continue safeguards implementation, and therefore IAEA monitoring of its enrichment facilities, provided that Iran’s nuclear dossier remains “in full” in the framework of the IAEA. (See April 28 IAEA report, para. 6) So Iran might stop cooperating with the IAEA on safeguards if a Chapter VII resolution is adopted.
I can see in the draft traces of efforts to meet Russian and Chinese concerns. The finding of a threat to peace and security is stated relatively softly, as follows:

“Concerned by the proliferation risks posed by the Iranian nuclear programme, mindful of the threat to international peace and security and its responsibilities in this regard, and determined to prevent an aggravation of the situation.”

And it is reasonably clear that the Council would need to decide on further steps, i.e. sanctions or force (though military action is not on the horizon for anyone except possibly the United States), carrying the implication that such steps should not be taken prior to Council consideration:

“Expresses its intention to consider such further measures as may be necessary to ensure compliance with this resolution and decides that further examination will be required should such additional steps be necessary.”

If Russia and China hold firm and are prepared to veto a Chapter VII resolution, perhaps the Council will consider alternative approaches. I sketched some yesterday:

“1) [T]he Council could decide that the IAEA, the Secretary-General, appropriate countries–for example a NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] representative, an EU [European Union] representative, Russia, China, and the United States–should negotiate with Iran. Or the Council could establish a mediation commission.

2) The Council could determine that in the Iran situation, or more generally in a situation of non-compliance with a non-proliferation/disarmament regime, the authority of the IAEA or the relevant body is expanded appropriately to allow resolution of issues of non-compliance.

3) The Council could express disappointment at Iran’s failure to respond to the presidential statement, and call on Iran to make rapid progress on outstanding issues by the next IAEA Board meeting in June and to work with relevant parties to find a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of Iran’s enrichment program and the supply of nuclear fuel.”

Outside the zone of potential confrontation at the Security Council, it remains the case that a solution to the nuclear issues is within reach. Consistent with what Michael Spies and I have been saying on this blog, we recently received a message from a well-informed source which included this point: The E3/US are ignoring that Iran is prepared to put on ice a commercial enrichment plant with capacity for 50,000 centrifuges in return for a pilot enrichment plant (of about 600 centrifuges) under IAEA verification plus assurances of supply of nuclear fuel for its nuclear reactor. However, the E3/US are fixated on the pilot plant and are still wedded to a policy of “not one centrifuge spinning in Iran.”