Will Iran's Nuclear Negotiating Team Introduce the “Fourth Option” in History of the Security Council?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ja'far Mohammadi
Editor in Chief of Asriran News Website

A major development has taken place in history of international law through conclusion of Iran's nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group of countries.

So far, the United Nations Security Council has adopted many sanctions resolutions against numerous countries. Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations allows the Security Council to impose sanctions on a country that is considered to be a threat to international peace and security and even form a multinational military force to attack that country.

In all cases that the Security Council has included a country case under Chapter VII of the Charter and has imposed sanctions on it, one of the following three states has ensued:

1. Full implementation of the Security Council’s decisions

The country under sanctions has meticulously followed suit with the Security Council’s resolutions and after full implementation of those resolutions has been relieved of sanctions. An example to the point was Libya in the case of the terrorist operations which led to crash of a Pan American plane over Scotland’s Lockerbie.

2. Regime change

The regime of the country under sanctions has changed as a result of domestic unrest, and subsequent to the regime change, the Security Council’s goals have been achieved. An example to the point was the case of South Africa where the Apartheid regime was toppled through popular uprising led by the late Nelson Mandela. The overthrow of that regime did away with its racist measures that had led to the adoption of the Security Council’s sanctions resolutions in the first place.

3. Military attack

The third state is military attack on the country under sanctions, which has refrained from carrying out the Security Council’s sanctions. The military attack on Iraq, and before that, on the former Yugoslavia after those countries did not heed the Security Council’s resolutions, are two prominent examples in this regard where the goals of the Security Council’s resolutions were achieved through military action.

On the whole, up to the present day, all decisions of the Security Council have led to one of the following three endings: countries have accepted them, or have experienced regime change from within, or have been targeted by foreign military strike, and in all three cases, the Security Council’s decisions have been finally carried out.

Iran's negotiations with the P5+1 countries and the resultant agreement has, for the first time in the history of international law, added a fourth option to the above three, which is to have the Security Council’s decisions abrogated through dialogue without the country in question having complied with them.

This important development has come about at a time that six Security Council resolutions against Iran – which were implemented against the Islamic Republic up to the latest rounds of nuclear negotiations – had imposed the toughest ever sanctions against Iran. They also commanded Iran to take certain measures, including full stop of its uranium enrichment program. However, through the recent agreement, Iran will continue its nuclear activities and the Security Council, unlike its past decisions and without those decision having been complied with, will adopt a new resolution and render those past decisions null and void.

This is a “unique victory” for Iran and “a major development in the history of international law.”

A few examples of the most important cases that have been dealt with under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations will be explained below. These cases had raised hope among the permanent members of the Security Council that Iran will finally head for one of the three aforesaid eventualities, but foresight of the Iranian statesmen, led to a fourth option.

South Africa

The Apartheid regime of South Africa, as a threat to people of the country and its neighbors, had been made subject to three sanctions resolutions adopted by the Security Council. The first resolution was adopted on November 4, 1977 under number 418, followed by resolution number 473 on June 13, 1980. The Security Council also adopted Resolution 558 against South Africa on December 13, 1984. These resolutions asked South Africa’s Apartheid regime to stop its racist and violent policies and obligated world countries to impose extensive sanctions against South Africa.

However, the government of South Africa paid no attention to those resolutions and remained under sanctions until popular struggles led by Nelson Mandela bore fruit, the Apartheid regime was toppled, and free elections were held in the country. Afterwards, the Security Council held a session on May 25, 1994, and put an end to 17 years of sanctions against South Africa by adopting Resolution 919.


Four days after Iraq attacked its southern neighbor, Kuwait, on August 2, 1990, and occupied that country, the Security Council adopted Resolution 661 under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iraq. After the adoption of that resolution, Baghdad did not pay any attention to it and this lack of compliance led to the adoption of later resolutions against Iraq, which finally ended in military operation against the Arab country.

Following the war and emancipation of Kuwait from the occupation of the Iraqi army, sanctions remained in place until the United States attacked Iraq once again and toppled the country’s government. Subsequent to these catastrophic developments and after election of a popular government in Iraq, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1483 in 2013 and put an end to sanctions against Iraq.


The civil war in the former Yugoslavia led to intervention of the Security Council in this region and a number of resolutions were adopted against that country. They included Resolution 713, which was adopted on September 25, 1991, and Resolution 724, adopted on December 15, 1991.

These resolutions were only repealed through Resolution 1367 after military forces of an international coalition had bombarded Yugoslavia, forcing aggressor Serbian troops to retreat. The result of that civil war was disintegration of Yugoslavia.


A military coup d’état was staged in Haiti in 1991, toppling the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The United Nations Security Council met on June 16, 1993 to adopt Resolution 841 followed by Resolution 917 on May 6, 1994, which led to imposition of sanctions against this Caribbean country.

After the coup government paid no attention to those resolutions, the Security Council convened on July 31, 1994, and formed a multinational military force through adoption of Resolution 940 in order to restore the country’s legitimate government to power. Finally, after the putschists fled the country and the power was restored to Aristide, the Security Council ended sanctions against Haiti through adoption of Resolution 948.


On December 21, 1988, an American plane operated by Pan American airlines was destroyed in a terrorist operation over Scotland’s Lockerbie city, leaving 259 passengers dead. Three years later, the US attorney general indicted three Libyan citizens as the main culprits in the incident and asked the Libyan government to extradite them. The then Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, did not accept the request and the Security Council started to take measures. As a result, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council imposed sanctions against Libya through adoption of Resolution 748, and further extended those sanctions through later adoption of Resolution 883 on November 11, 1993.

Libya did its best to withstand the sanctions, but finally surrendered, extradited the accused persons, and paid remuneration to survivors and families of the plane’s passengers. As a result, sanctions against Libya were later rescinded through the Security Council Resolution 1506, which was adopted on September 12, 2003.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Negotiating Team, Fourth Option, History, UN, Security Council, Threat, International Peace, Security, Regime Change, Military Attack, South Africa, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Disintegration, Civil War, Mohammadi

Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Research.UN

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