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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

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Groups composed of well-educated, Westernized urban youth are the backbone of the Green Movement. They are attempting, with mixed success, to gain support of older generation, labor, clerics, village-dwellers, and other segments. Many in the Office of Consolidation of Unity, the student group that led the 1999 riots but which has since become controlled by regime loyalists, believes that major reform of the current regime might be acceptable. An offshoot of the Office—the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS)—believes in regime replacement and consists of pro-American, pro-free market activists. CIS co- founder, Arzhang Davoodi, convicted in August 2012 of “war against God” which carries life sentence. The other co-founder, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, is based in Washington, D.C.
Groups composed of well-educated, Westernized urban youth are the backbone of the Green Movement. They are attempting, with mixed success, to gain support of older generation, labor, clerics, village-dwellers, and other segments. Many in the Office of Consolidation of Unity, the student group that led the 1999 riots but which has since become controlled by regime loyalists, believes that major reform of the current regime might be acceptable. An offshoot of the Office—the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS)—believes in regime replacement and consists of pro-American, pro-free market activists. CIS co- founder, Arzhang Davoodi, convicted in August 2012 of “war against God” which carries life sentence. The other co-founder, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, is based in Washington, D.C.

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Published by: Confederation of Iranian students on Jan 03, 2013
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CRS Report for Congress
 Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern AffairsDecember 19, 2012
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Summary
A priority of Obama Administration policy has been to address the perceived threat posed to a broad range of U.S. interests by Iran, in particular by Iran’s advancing nuclear enrichment program. The as yet unchecked Iranian advances have caused the government of Israel to assertthat it might take unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities unless the United States provides assurances that it will act, militarily if necessary, to prevent Iran from taking the finalsteps toward developing a nuclear weapon. Aside from the nuclear issue, the United States haslong seen Iran’s support for militant groups in the Middle East and in Iraq and Afghanistan asefforts to undermine U.S. interests and allies. U.S. officials also accuse Iran of helping Syria’sleadership try to defeat a growing popular opposition movement and of taking advantage of Shiitemajority unrest against the Sunni-led, pro-U.S. government of Bahrain.The Obama Administration has orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran, whilealso offering Iran sustained engagement and some sanctions relief if it verifiably demonstrates tothe international community that its nuclear program is peaceful. The three most recent rounds of multilateral talks with Iran (April, May, and June 2012) yielded no breakthroughs but did explorea potential compromise under which Iran might end uranium enrichment to 20% purity (a levelnot technically far from weapons grade) in exchange for some sanctions relief. Subsequenttechnical talks produced no immediate progress, but appear to have set the stage for more talks inearly 2013.The Administration asserts that there is time for accumulated international sanctions to compelIran’s leaders to compromise before U.S. military action is considered. Since the beginning of 2012, as significant multilateral sanctions have been added on Iran’s oil exports—including an oil purchase embargo by the European Union that went into full effect on July 1, 2012—the regimehas begun to acknowledge significant economic pressure. That pressure led to a virtual collapsein the market value of Iran’s currency, the rial, in early October 2012. Since late 2011, bothBritain and Canada have closed their embassies in Iran. Some reports suggest that theAdministration is open to bilateral talks with Iran if doing so could head off confrontation.The Administration and many outside experts also perceive that the legitimacy and popularity of Iran’s regime is in decline, although not to the point where the regime’s grip on power isthreatened. There are few signs that the opposition in Iran or in exile has gained traction againstthe regime, even though international sanctions are causing clear public frustration. The reformist boycott of the March 2, 2012, parliamentary elections rendered the election a contest betweenfactions supporting either President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i.Khamene’i supporters were elected overwhelmingly. It is likely that only hardliners will besignificant candidates in the next presidential election, to be held on June 14, 2013.The 112
th
Congress has supported additional economic sanctions against Iran, most recently withenactment of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905, P.L.112-158), which expands sanctions against companies that conduct energy and financialtransactions with Iran. Additional sanctions were imposed by the European Union in mid-October, and a Senate amendment to an FY2013 defense authorization bill would sanction tradewith Iran in key economic sectors and in precious metals. For further information, see CRSReport RS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
, and CRS Report R40094,
 Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’sCompliance with International Obligations
, by Paul K. Kerr.
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Contents
Political History ............................................................................................................................... 1
 
Regime Structure, Stability, and Opposition .................................................................................... 2
 
Unelected Governing Institutions: The Supreme Leader, His Powers, and Other Ruling Councils ...................................................................................................................... 2
 
Council of Guardians and Expediency Council .................................................................. 3
 
Elected Institutions: The Presidency, the Majles (Parliament), the Assembly of Experts, and Recent Elections ................................................................................................ 7
 
The Presidency .................................................................................................................... 7
 
The Majles ........................................................................................................................... 8
 
The Assembly of Experts .................................................................................................... 9
 
Recent Elections: First Ahmadinejad Election in 2005 ....................................................... 9
 
Disputed Ahmadinejad 2009 Reelection: Protests Erupt and Second Term isRiven by Schisms ........................................................................................................... 10
 
June 2103 Presidential Election ........................................................................................ 13
 
The Opposition ........................................................................................................................ 14
 
The Green Movement and Its Uprising ............................................................................. 14
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: Supporters of the Son of the Late Shah of Iran ..................... 15
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: People’s Mojahedin ............................................................... 16
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups ..................................................................... 19
 
Iranian-American Interest Groups ..................................................................................... 20
 
Other Human Rights Practices ....................................................................................................... 21
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies .............................................................................. 21
 
Special U.N. Rapporteur Reestablished ............................................................................ 22
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs ................................... 24
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force ....................................................... 24
 
 Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy .......................................................... 28
 
Iran’s Nuclear Intentions ................................................................................................... 28
 
Iran’s Position and Counter-Arguments ............................................................................ 29
 
 Nuclear Weapons Time Frame Estimates .......................................................................... 30
 
Status of Enrichment ......................................................................................................... 30
 
Early International Diplomatic Efforts to Address Iran’s Nuclear Program ..................... 31
 
Developments Since the Start of the Obama Administration ............................................ 34
 
Missiles and Chemical/Biological Weapons............................................................................ 39
 
Chemical and Biological Weapons .................................................................................... 39
 
Ballistic and Cruise Missiles and Warheads ...................................................................... 40
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups .......................................................................... 42
 
Support for International Terrorism ......................................................................................... 42
 
Foreign Policy: Relations with the Persian Gulf States ........................................................... 44
 
Yemen ................................................................................................................................ 47
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq ............................................................................................................... 47
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups .................................................................................. 48
 
Iran and Hamas.................................................................................................................. 48
 
Lebanese Hezbollah ................................................................................................................. 49
 
Syria ......................................................................................................................................... 50
 
The Caucusus and Central Asia ............................................................................................... 52
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India .......................................................................... 53
 

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