The Multilateralist

The dirty secret on Iran sanctions

When the UN Security Council passed a new round of sanctions on Iran in June, it was front-page news. But what happens after the sanctions are passed? At the U.N., the work of ensuring that countries implement the sanctions is done by a special committee of the Security Council. It meets periodically with little fanfare ...

When the UN Security Council passed a new round of sanctions on Iran in June, it was front-page news. But what happens after the sanctions are passed? At the U.N., the work of ensuring that countries implement the sanctions is done by a special committee of the Security Council. It meets periodically with little fanfare and almost no attention. One of its responsibilities is to ensure that all states submit reports documenting and explaining how they’ve altered their national laws and regulations to ensure compliance with the new sanctions.

The latest resolution gave states 60 days to report, a deadline that expired a few weeks ago. How many states have submitted the required reports? A grand total of 32 out of 192 (as of last week). That’s a response rate of under 17 percent. And some of the reports barely merit the term — they’re just a few lines that provide little useful information. The United States and several of its allies badger states to comply, but they sometimes encounter resentment from smaller states in particular, who complain that the Security Council has, through its web of sanctions regimes, counterterrorism committees, and arms embargoes, imposed a heavy burden of reporting requirements.

For the moment, there are no real consequences for a country’s failure to report. And unless that changes, compliance will continue to be the exception.

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