John Sawers, a leading British diplomat, outlined his strategy for winning Russian and Chinese support for tougher action against Iran in a confidential letter dated March 16. It was addressed to his counterparts in France, Germany and the US:
Stanislas de Laboulaye, Michael Schaefer, Nick Burns, Robert Cooper.
Nick, Michael and I had a word yesterday about how to handle the E3+3 meeting in New York on Monday. We agreed that we would need to have a shared concept of what would happen in the Security Council after the period specified by the proposed Presidential Statement. I agreed to circulate a short paper which we might use as a sort of speaking note with the Russians and Chinese. This is attached.
Implicit in the paper is a recognition that we are not going to bring the Russians and Chinese to accept significant sanctions over the coming months, certainly not without further efforts to bring the Iranians around.
Kislyak might argue that those diplomatic efforts should start straightaway after a Presidential Statement is adopted. Our own assessment here is that the Iranians will not feel under much pressure from PRST on its own, and they will need to know that more serious measures are likely. This means putting the Iran dossier onto a Chapter VII basis. We may also need to remove one of the Iranian arguments that the suspension called for is ‘voluntary’. We could do both by making the voluntary suspension a mandatory requirement to the Security Council, in a Resolution we would aim to adopt I, say, early May.
In return for the Russians and Chinese agreeing to this, we would then want to put together a package that could be presented to the Iranians as a new proposal. Ideally this would have the explicit backing of Russia, China and the United States as well as the E3, though Nick will want to consider the scope of presenting this in that way. Our thought is that we would need to finalise this during June, and the obvious occasion to do so would be in the margins of the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The period running up to the G8 Summit will be when our influence on Russia will be at its maximum, and we need to plan accordingly.
In parallel with agreeing a new proposal, we will also want to bind Russia and China into agreeing to further measures that will be taken by the Security Council should the Iranians fail to engage positively. That would be reflected in Step Four. We would not, at this stage, want to be explicit about what would be involved then – there will need to be extensive negotiations on that in May/June.
I am not sure how far we will get on Monday. The prospect of an E3+3 Ministerial in Berlin on 30 March would give Kislyak the opportunity to push this down the road by ten days. But I suspect we will need a meeting at Ministerial level anyway to get agreement to this sort of approach, including an early Chapter VII Resolution.
We have earmarked a conference call between the five of us on Friday afternoon. Can I suggest that we do this at 1530 GMT. We will need to be circumspect on an open line, but as we are not planning to hand a paper over to the Russians and Chinese, I don’t think we need to go into detailed drafting. What we need is agreement on the concepts.
Looking forward to seeing you all in New York on Monday."