Skip to main content

Sanctions, Countermeasures, and the Iranian Nuclear Issue

Posted by on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 42 No. 5, Volume 42, Volumes.

The international community’s response to Iran’s nuclear development program highlights the sometimes complex legal relationship between the UN system of collective security and the rights of states to take unilateral countermeasures under the law of state responsibility.  It also raises a number of important questions about (a) the discretion afforded to states in the interpretation and implementation of Security Council resolutions, (b) the availability of countermeasures for the violation of multilateral obligations, and (c) the exclusivity of the Chapter VII framework for collective security.

This Article argues that, while the Security Council’s Iran sanctions resolutions do not grant discretionary authority to states to broaden the scope of the measures, states retain their rights under the law of state responsibility to take unilateral countermeasures in response to wrongful acts.  Under the law of state responsibility, multilateral treaties like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are best understood as integrated agreements, such that in the event of non-compliance each State Party is entitled to treat itself as an “injured State” for the purposes of determining the availability of countermeasures.  Moreover, quite apart from the question of whether the NPT is an integrated agreement, there is a substantial body of state practice supporting the right of states to take collective countermeasures in response to violations of multilateral obligations.  The case for this entitlement is at its strongest where, as in the situation with Iran, the wrongful conduct has been determined by an international body with responsibility for monitoring and verifying compliance with the obligations in question.  In such instances, the use of countermeasures in response to violations—far from undermining the international order—may serve to promote respect for the international rule of law.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Response

ExpressO Top 10 Law Review


The Journal is pleased to announce its 2018-2019 Board of Editors. Complete-Masthead-2018-2019

Vanderbilt University Law School Professor Michael A. Newton’s 2016 VJTL Article entitled How the International Criminal Court Threatens Treaty Norms  was cited by the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s November 2017 filing seeking investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan.

May 2018 Issue on the Second Israel Defense Forces International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict. Read more about the Journal’s May 2018 issue here.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Journal’s 50th Anniversary celebration on October 5, 2017! View photos from the event here and read about the Journal’s history here.

Connect with the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law on LinkedIn.

The Journal is pleased to listed as the #5 International Law Journal by the 2017 Washington and Lee Law Journal Rankings.

The Journal is very excited about the success of our February 2017 Symposium, “Sovereign Conduct on the Margins of the Law.” Read more about our February 2017 Symposium here

Please join us in congratulating the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 2017-2018 Write-On Competition Winners.

Video is available from the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law’s 2015-2016 SymposiumThis is Not a Drill: Confronting Legal Issues in the Wake of International Disasters. Watch here.