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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Regulatory Expertise and Transgovernmental Networks in Security Council Decision-making: The Non-proliferation Sanctions on Iran and North Korea

Conflict Resolution
International Relations
Decision Making
Thomas Doerfler
Universität Potsdam
Thomas Doerfler
Universität Potsdam

The paper explores how division of labor affects the interaction of Security Council members in the non-proliferation sanctions regimes on Iran and DPRK. The paper first develops a theoretical approach based on institutionalist theory and the concept of focal points to show how delegation of regulatory tasks to a sanctions committee subjects committee members to repeating coordination situations. It goes on to theoretically explore how impartial evidence and regulatory expertise could provide solutions to such coordination problems, even when great powers have diverging interests.
In a second step, based on available Council documents, US diplomatic cables and press coverage, the paper examines how impartial evidence and regulatory expertise can become a powerful tool of interaction in the Iran sanctions regime. In a first mechanism, the Council delegated decision competencies to its Iran sanctions committee, which mainly focused on follow-up decisions on sanctions violators. Even though the great powers disagreed, impartial information provided by the associated Panel of Experts served as focal points on which sanctions targets should be selected. In a second mechanism, the Council used the comprehensive lists of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile related items elaborated by the transgovernmental Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), as external focal points.
In a third step, the paper examines how delegation to a sanctions committee and reference to externally provided regulatory expertise affected Council members in the DPRK sanctions regime. Similarly, in a first mechanism, the Council delegated the task to determine follow-up decisions on the DPRK non-proliferation file to its DPRK sanctions committee. Because the permanent members disagreed over these decisions, the turn to impartial evidence submitted by the associated Panel of Experts provided a solution to the coordination problem in the committee. In a second mechanism, the Council again decided on trade restrictions on civil-military items (‘dual-use’) on the basis of lists externally provided by the NSG and MTCR, bridging a conflict among permanent members.
The paper finds that impartial evidence and regulatory expertise provide solutions to great power conflict because they serve as focal points around which state expectations converge. The empirical analysis shows that Security Council members are driven towards evidence-based decision-making on sanctions violations and dual-use items in both the Iran and the DPRK sanctions regimes. The paper concludes that ‘high politics’ decision-making on non-proliferation can produce rule-based regulatory decisions without excluding the member states from the decision process, even in cases where the great powers disagree on sanctions.
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