On February 12, the UN Security Council unanimously passed an important new Chapter VII resolution – Resolution 2199 – to respond to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.
This resolution is significant for four reasons. First, the resolution specifically targets the supply of oil. In other words, it attempts to degrade the supply chain and the support networks. The preamble refers to oilfields and their related infrastructure, as well as other infrastructure such as dams and power plants. The operative paragraph states the Council:
“Condemns any engagement in direct or indirect trade, in particular of oil and oil products, and modular refineries and related material, with ISIL, ANF and any other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities designated as associated with Al-Qaida by the Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011), and reiterates that such engagement would constitute support for such individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and may lead to further listings by the Committee;and attempts to target companies and activities that contribute to terrorist activities.”
This effort by the Council condemns direct and indirect trade in oil and oil products, and emphasizes that all states must freeze assets of the targeted groups, as well as their agents, intermediaries and middlemen, including oil producers. In another paragraph, the Council also expresses concern that vehicles coming from certain areas could be carrying oil, minerals, livestock and other materials to barter.
Second, the resolution prohibits trade in cultural artifacts. Terrorist groups in these countries are known to be profiting from the looting of antiquities, and this resolution seeks to prevent the trade in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance. It notes that terrorist groups are generating income from illegally removing artifacts from both countries during periods of conflict. The resolution reaffirms an existing ban on antiquities from Iraq, and imposes a new ban on antiquities from Syria. It also sets the basis for cooperation with INTERPOL and UNESCO.
Third, the resolution bans the payment of ransom, regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid. It further “Reiterates its call upon all Member States to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or from political concessions and to secure the safe release of hostages, and reaffirms the need for all Member States to cooperate closely during incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups.” In so doing, it attempts to cut off funds derived from ransom, and reaffirms that UN sanctions prohibit ransom payments to UN listed groups.
Fourth, the resolution was drafted by Russia. While Russia’s opposition to intervention in Syria and is well known, this is an example of positive engagement with the situation in Syria. Although the resolution does not authorize intervention, it makes creative use of the Security Council’s sanctions power and is indicative of creative new approaches to targeting.
The Council’s efforts to prevent direct and indirect trade in oil products are illustrative of the Council’s regulatory activities in the economic sphere. An article I published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law in 2008 provides some background on the topic of the Security Council as norm setter in the international economic sphere.