RESEARCH REPORT FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL—QUESTION OF IRAN
I. Introduction of Topic:
Since the development and deployment of the first nuclear weapon in 1945, the
question of states possessing such a powerful and disastrous force has been a concern of the
United Nations and a potential threat to international peace and security. In particular, the
international community is polarized by Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which creates
extensive implications in the volatile Middle East.
The Iranian government is currently trying to develop a nuclear program, claiming
that it is to provide fuel for medical reactors and to generate electricity. By harnessing
nuclear power for the purpose of electricity, Iran could avoid having to dip into its oil supply,
which the government prefers to sell abroad. However the United States, Israel and many
European nations believe that Tehran is planning to build nuclear weapons.
Due to this tension, Iran and the West have been at odds over the nuclear program for
years. While this has been a concern for some time, the severity of the issue has become more
serious since November 2011. At this time, international
inspectors found evidence of nuclear weapon
development, leading to tougher sanctions by the United
States and Europe against Iran’s oil exports, threats by
Iran to shut the Strait of Hormuz1 and threats from Israel
signaling increasing readiness to attack Iran’s nuclear
facilities. This question is of international concern, for
as tensions grow higher, what will the United Nations
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the 18th-largest
Fig. 1 (WIKI)
country in the world in terms of area, and has a
population of approximately 75 million. Iran is a regional power2, and holds an important
position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of
petroleum and natural gas. Iran has the second largest proven natural gas reserves in the
world and the fourth largest proven petroleum reserves. Islam heavily influences Iranian
politics and the judicial system follows Shi’a, or Sharia, Law.
For a better understanding of the issue, and in order to have a broader context, it is
important to note that there are currently eight states that have successfully detonated nuclear
The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It is the only sea passage from
the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points.
Approximately 20% of the world's petroleum passes through the strait. It is shown by the red arrow in Figure 1.
In terms of international relations, a ‘regional power’ is a state that has power within a geographic region.
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NPT nuclear-weapon states
Other states with nuclear weapons
Other states believed to have nuclear weapons
Fig. 2 (MPC) NATO nuclear weapons sharing states
States formerly possessing nuclear weapons
While Iran is not one of these eight countries, it is a party to the Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT).4 However, it was found in non-compliance with its NPT safeguards agreement
and the status of its nuclear program remains in dispute. This situation began in November
2003, when the Director of the IAEA,5 Mohamed ElBaradei, reported that Iran had
repeatedly failed to meet its safeguards obligations over an extended period of time. Most
notably, Iran failed to declare its uranium enrichment program. In 2005, the IAEA found that
these failures constituted non-compliance with the IAEA safeguards agreement. This was
reported to the UN Security Council in 2006, after which the Security Council passed a
resolution demanding that Iran suspend its enrichment. Nevertheless, Iran resumed its
In February 2008, based on documents provided by member states of the IAEA, the
IAEA stated that it was working to address allegations of weaponization6 in Iran. Iran
rejected the allegations as baseless, and contended that the documents were fabrications. In
June 2009, the IAEA reported that Iran had not “cooperated with the Agency in connection
with the remaining issues ... which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military
dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”7 The United States concluded that Iran had violated
its Article III NPT safeguards obligations8, as well as having violated Iran's Article II
In April 2010, the US increased its efforts to renew its sanctions on Iran over the
Iranian nuclear program. However Asian powers such as India and China opposed the
adoption of a new round of sanctions against Iran.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an international treaty which aims to prevent the spread
of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and
to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms
limitation and disarmament agreement.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the
peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. It
reports to both the UN General Assembly and Security Council.
Weaponization is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the process of “adapting for use as a weapon
IAEA, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council
resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1835 in the Islamic Republic of Iran. www.iaea.org
Article III of the NPT requires each non-nuclear weapon state party to the treaty to conclude a safeguards
agreement with the IAEA to prohibit the diversion of nuclear materials from peaceful to non-peaceful uses.
Article II of the NPT states that each non-nuclear weapons state party agrees not to receive, from any source,
nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices; not to manufacture or acquire such weapons or devices;
and not to receive any assistance in their manufacture.
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In November 2011, the IAEA rebuked Iran following a report detailing how Iran had
undertaken research and experiments geared to developing nuclear weapons capability. For
the first time, the IAEA report outlined, in depth, the country’s detonator development, the
multiple-point initiation of high explosives, and experiments involving nuclear payload
integration into a missile delivery vehicle. However, Iran rejected the details of the report and
accused the IAEA of pro-Western bias and threatened to reduce its cooperation with the
III. Relevant International Agreements, Conventions, Organizations and Resolutions:
2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696; called upon Iran to halt its
uranium enrichment program.
2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737; imposed sanctions on Iran
for failing to stop its uranium enrichment program. It banned the supply of nuclear-
related technology and materials and froze the assets of key individuals and
companies related to the enrichment program.
2007: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747; expanded the list of
sanctioned Iranian entities.
2008: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1803, extended the sanctions to
additional persons and entities, imposed travel restrictions on sanctioned persons, and
barred exports of nuclear- and missile-related dual-use goods to Iran.
2008: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1835; reaffirmed the preceding
2010: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929; imposed a complete arms
embargo on Iran, banned Iran from any activities related to ballistic missiles,
authorized the inspection and seizure of shipments violating these restrictions, and
extended the asset freeze to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Islamic
Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.
2010: The United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway,
South Korea, and Russia imposed measures to implement and extend the sanctions
created in UNSC Resolution 1929.
2011: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1984; extended the mandate of an
expert panel monitoring sanctions against the country over its nuclear program for
another twelve months.
2012: In August of 2012, Iran hosted a Non-Alignment Movement10 Summit in
Tehran, of which one of the topics on the agenda was nuclear disarmament. This has
caused more tension between Iran and the US, which believes that Iran’s call to end
the use of nuclear weapons is a rebuff towards the UNSC, since Iran itself is facing
Western suspicions that it is seeking nuclear capabilities.
IV. Main Issues to Consider:
Below are some of the issues that should be addressed during the debating process:
Iran’s credibility – Since Iran's uranium enrichment program secretly began years
ago, many observers find Iran's continuous development of fissile11 material production
capabilities particularly distressing. Fissile material is the primary element for a weapons
The Non-Alignment Movement is a group of 120 states considering themselves not aligned formally with or
against any major power bloc.
Fissile is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “able to undergo nuclear fission”.
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program, and its availability is understood to be the principal obstacle in developing nuclear
weapons. Thus, many believe that the claim that Iran has reportedly suspended
weaponization work is not credible.
Many nations find that Iran’s continued disobedience and deception is troubling.
Consequently, these countries believe that Iran must be stopped before it successfully
develops nuclear weapon capabilities.
Iran’s right to nuclear energy – Iran says it has a legal right to enrich uranium for
peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and states that it “has constantly
complied with its obligations under the NPT and the Statute of the International Atomic
Energy Agency”12. Iran also states that its enrichment program is part of its civilian nuclear
energy program, which is allowed under Article IV of the NPT13. The Non-Aligned
Movement has welcomed the continuing cooperation of Iran with the IAEA and reaffirmed
Iran's right to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
has welcomed dialogue between Iran and the IAEA, and has called for a peaceful resolution
to the issue.
Further actions to be taken by the UNSC – Many believe that Iran is simply using
the prospect of nuclear energy as an excuse to enrich uranium for the purpose of weapons
development. While sanctions have been imposed by nations independently and by the
Security Council itself, it may be necessary to take further action. Some US officials believe
that diplomacy is still an option, while others are considering more aggressive means.
V. Web Sites:
New York Times article on potential diplomacy between US and Iran
A section of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s website on the IAEA and Iran
Complete text of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
Complete text of the Iran-IAEA Safeguards Agreement
IAEA, Communication dated 26 March 2008 received from the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of
Iran to the Agency. www.iaea.org
Article IV of the NPT states, “1) Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right
of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes
without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty. 2) All the Parties to the Treaty
undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials
and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a
position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international
organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially
in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the
developing areas of the world.”
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