Recently Iran commenced its scientific research activities in the Antarctic, namely through dispatch of scientists in collaboration with other foreign state scientific institutions with research stations in Antarctica. In the meantime, the Iranian Antarctic research plan received approval of the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology and was then submitted to the relevant higher state organs for the allocation of budgets. However, there will be challenges on the trend towards Iranian active participation in the scientific research activities in the Antarctic, particularly from an international legal perspective. The author of this paper has been in charge of doing the preliminary legal studies of the plan in the Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science. Accordingly, this paper is intended to tackle the said international legal challenges. These include, but are not limited to: accession to the Antarctic Treaty and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS); devising and implementing the Iranian polar roadmap in compliance with international law; codification and drafting of necessary domestic laws or/and revision of existing ones; analysis of the international legal regime of the Antarctic, particularly environmental protection; and the linking between Antarctic science and Antarctic policy. Addressing these questions and many others would result in the perception that even prior to becoming a party to the Antarctic Treaty and the ATS, relevant decisions have been made, and measures taken to be compatible with the existing legal regime in the Antarctic.
The Antarctic offers unique opportunities to scientists in many disciplines for improving understanding of regional and global conditions. The governing Antarctic Treaty has 53 State Parties, many of which do not have geographical proximity to the continent. However, the importance of various disciplines of science and many other factors, urge them to participate in the Antarctic scientific activities. Therefore, it is not surprising that Iran is considering participation in Antarctic scientific research, and it has now set processes in motion to join these states in their endeavour to undertake research in Antarctica and contribute to its governance. Iran will develop a strategic plan prior to the commencement of its Antarctic activities, outlining its vision and objectives of an Antarctic program, as well as the financial and logistical implications, and is currently undertaking preparatory work that will culminate in the drafting of an Antarctic strategic plan. In doing so, the authors examined a number of factors including ones that could be identified in Antarctic law and policy as influencing the status and development of the existing Antarctic regime, the recent Antarctic Treaty States’ accession processes and strategies, the express or implied motivations for States to join the Antarctic Treaty, and generally the Antarctic Treaty System, all of which can be reached based on the aforementioned examination that can be incorporated in an Iranian Antarctic science roadmap.