Reza Nasri on UNSC Role Regarding Iran

Reza Nasri has written a really important analysis about the unhelpful role the UN Security Council has played in the Iran nuclear issue.  I endorse his view and his prescription completely. Its a relatively short piece in the CS Monitor. I hope neither he nor the Monitor mind, but I’ll reprint the piece here:

To Nudge Iran Talks, New UN Resolution Needed

The latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and “P5+1” international negotiators ended earlier this month with no more than an agreement to resume negotiations at a later date. As usual, pundits on both sides offered their assessments about why the talks did not succeed.

But one factor – UN Security Council resolutions that Iran “suspend all enrichment-related activities” – may play more of a role in fruitless negotiations than most commentators realize.

Since 2006, when the Security Council first made that demand, it has repeated it in three subsequent resolutions, the latest being Resolution 1929, adopted in June 2010. But the demand to cease all uranium enrichment is overly restrictive, essentially denying Iran the ability to develop even peaceful nuclear power. For the negotiation process, this restrictiveness poses several problems.

First, the resolutions are out of touch with the realities on the ground in Iran – namely, enrichment taking place that is not at bomb grade (at least not yet). They are also out of date, neglecting all the developments and understandings that both sides have achieved throughout various rounds of negotiations since 2006.

Today, after years of multilateral negotiations, most negotiating countries seem to have adopted a more pragmatic and practical approach and no longer truly expect a full suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities. Nonetheless, the shadow of the Security Council’s unrealistic and outdated request still looms over the talks.

Second, because of the Security Council’s radical stance on enrichment, world powers cannot legally offer Iran any meaningful relief on international sanctions in exchange for fair and reasonable concessions from Tehran. In the present climate, agreeing to anything short of a full suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities would breach UN resolutions, and that would set a bad precedent and dent the credibility of the UN collective security regime.

Third, because of the legal restrictions that these UN resolutions impose on all states, including on Western states that are in the process of negotiating with Iran, P5+1 negotiators cannot legally offer Iran any technical incentive to secure its cooperation. The Security Council effectively bans most forms of assistance to, and investment in, Iran’s nuclear and energy sector. That restricts the  P5+1 negotiators, which are legally bound to maintain the full force of the resolutions, from offering any captivating alternative to Iran.

To illustrate the point, Germany’s Green Party submitted a proposal last year in which the German government would help Iran build a solar energy facility in exchange for Iran curbing some aspects of its nuclear program. Such a proposition, and similar ones, could have been put on the table by the P5+1 to increase the negotiations change of success. But the Security Council renders such creative initiatives irrelevant as their realization would be illegal under its resolutions.

In other words, because of these legal strictures, the P5+1 goes to the negotiation table without having the capacity to offer its counterpart any positive incentive, something that most negotiators would find a handicap rather than a leverage to their advantage.

Of course, despite these legal restrictions, various international actors have occasionally been able to offer promising deals to Iran. For example, in May 2010, Brazil and Turkey persuaded Tehran to ship 1200 kg (2640 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey (as a confidence-building measure) based on a proposal that was initially drafted by the Obama administration. However, the United States itself subsequently blocked the bargain on the ground that it still did not meet the restrictive demands of the Security Council.

“While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20 percent enrichment, which is a direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” the White House said in a statement.

In sum, despite the fact that the UN Charter mandates the world body to encourage and facilitate peaceful settlements of international disputes, it seems that in the case of Iran’s nuclear crisis, the Security Council has had the exact opposite effect.

The way out of this conundrum is for the Security Council to issue a new resolution. The resolution would do two things: It would explicitly acknowledge whatever achievement the P5+1 track has so far produced. And it would promise to lift its sanctions if the parties reach a “reasonable agreement” – notwithstanding previous resolutions.

Such a move by the Security Council would greatly help to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem in a peaceful manner. It would give Iran the long-awaited assurance that its cooperation would be met with some degree of reciprocation. And it would free Western negotiators from the burden of having to work within the unrealistic and outdated UN strictures on enrichment.

It remains to be seen which member of the Security Council is bold enough to propose such a draft resolution.

Reza Nasri is an international lawyer specializing in Iranian affairs and charter and foreign relations law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

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11 Comments on “Reza Nasri on UNSC Role Regarding Iran”

  1. yousaf says:

    “In sum, despite the fact that the UN Charter mandates the world body to encourage and facilitate peaceful settlements of international disputes, it seems that in the case of Iran’s nuclear crisis, the Security Council has had the exact opposite effect.”

    true.

  2. Fiorangela says:

    True, yes, as Yousaf concluded.
    Another question is: Was the process of hogtying the Security Council deliberate, or was it the unforeseen outcome of a multi-layered, byzantine process?

    Based on the protagonists, personalities, and interests involved and their track record going back at least 50 years, I’m forced to opt for “deliberate.”

    The test of my speculation will be whether the Security Council takes up Mr. Nazri’s suggestion and drafts a new resolution.

    • yousaf says:

      Deliberate.

      I had a piece in the National Interest — permit me to quote:

      http://nationalinterest.org/print/commentary/make-tehran-serious-offer-8120

      “In some ways, it seems we are back to early 1950s in dealing with Iran. Ray Takeyh in reviewing Ervand Abrahamian’s new book, The Coup: 1953, the CIA and the Roots of Modern US–Iranian Relations, for the journal Survival, mentions [25] that Abrahamian’s historical research reveals that:

      ” . . . the British Empire was hardly prone to concede to an Iranian government reclaiming its oil fields, and was all along plotting the overthrow of the impudent premier. Whitehall viewed Mossadegh’s nationalisation as not just an infringement of its prerogatives in Iran but as an act that could potentially endanger all of its considerable overseas assets. Mossadegh had to go, and diplomacy was a mere ruse to achieve that end. In this narrative, London never really sought an accommodation with Tehran, but was merely going through the ritual of diplomacy to ensure a broadbased coalition against an embattled Mossadegh.”

      It appears, again—that just as in the early 1950s—the P5+1 is now “merely going through the ritual of diplomacy to ensure a broadbased coalition against an embattled” Iranian regime.

      There appears to be a striking cognitive dissonance between the pronouncements of the alleged mortal threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and the foot-dragging approach to doing something about it in negotiations.”

      ===============================

      And you don’t need to take my word for it.

      Let’s see what one of the actual US hostages says:

      ===

      “First and foremost we believe the President needs to make that decision – ‘I want a deal’ – and instruct his people to get a deal,” he said.

      statement by:

      ” Ambassador Limbert, who was ….held captive in Iran during the 1979 to 1981 hostage crisis”

      http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0425/Chorus-grows-against-Obama-administration-s-sanctions-heavy-Iran-policy

      ===

      ie. even that decision on whether we really want a deal has not yet been made.

      They don’t even know if they really want a deal: but let’s just go ahead and slap on some sanctions — because they have worked so well before….in killing 500,000 children.

      Keep Calm, and Carry On.

    • Cyrus says:

      “We have sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran” – President Bush, 2004

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35655-2004Dec29.html

  3. Cyrus says:

    My goodness! Reach a reasonable deal with Iran? Why I never! What, and give up on using the nuclear issue as a pretext for a policy of imposing regime change there? Next they’ll be saying that the US should start to *gasp* get along with Iran instead of threatening to bomb the place…Nevermind the 10 billion dollar arms sales to the UAE and Saudis, what would Dennis Ross and AIPAC think of that!?

  4. Someone email me when this happens…

  5. […] construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran. Still, they acquiesced to resolutions that make a diplomatic settlement harder and that contradict a truly rules-based model of international […]

  6. […] construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran. Still, they acquiesced to resolutions that make a diplomatic settlement harder and that contradict a truly rules-based model of international […]

  7. […] construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran. Still, they acquiesced to resolutions that make a diplomatic settlement harder and that contradict a truly rules-based model of international […]

  8. […] as authorizing the use of force against Iran. Still, they acquiesced to resolutions that make a diplomatic settlement harder and that contradict a truly rules-based model of international […]


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