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Rl 32048

Rl 32048

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Rl 32048
Rl 32048

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Published by: samlagrone on Nov 27, 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 Affairs November 4, 2013
Congressional Research Service
7-5700 www.crs.gov RL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses Congressional Research Service
Summary
A priority of Obama Administration policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. Well before Iran’s nuclear issue rose to the forefront of U.S. concerns about Iran in 2003, the United States had seen Iran’s support for regional militant groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, as efforts to undermine U.S. interests and allies. To implement U.S. policy, the Obama Administration has orchestrated broad international economic  pressure on Iran to try to compel it to verifiably demonstrate to the international community that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. Five rounds of multilateral talks with Iran in 2012 and 2013 yielded no breakthroughs but did explore a potential compromise under which Iran might cease producing medium-enriched uranium (20% Uranium-235—a level not technically far from weapons grade) in exchange for modest sanctions relief. International sanctions have harmed Iran’s economy, and the June 14, 2013, first round election victory of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, appeared to reflect popular Iranian sentiment for a negotiated nuclear settlement that produces an easing of international sanctions. Rouhani’s election has improved the prospect for a nuclear issue settlement as well as an end to the 34 years of U.S.-Iran estrangement. On September 27, 2013, President Obama and Rouhani spoke by phone—the first leadership level contacts since the 1979 Islamic revolution—as Rouhani departed a week-long visit to the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York. In their speeches to the Assembly, both President Obama and Rouhani indicated that the nuclear issue could be settled—perhaps within six months—and that the long era of U.S.-Iran hostility could be ended. The week also included the first foreign ministerial meeting between the two countries, and a decision to resume formal political talks on the nuclear issue on October 15-16, 2013. Those talks were productive, by all accounts, and resulted in a decision to meet again November 7-8, 2013, but produced no firm substantive agreements on a short-term or end-stage compromise. President Obama has consistently maintained, including after his phone conversation with Rouhani, that the option of U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities remains open. However, Rouhani’s overtures are likely to forestall, at least in the short term, further U.S. discussion of military options against Iran. The Administration is also requesting the Senate  postpone moving ahead with a Senate version of an expanded Iran sanctions bill, H.R. 850, that  passed the House on July 31, 2013. That bill would enable Iran’s major oil customers to avoid sanctions if they cut their purchases of Iranian oil to minimal levels. The government of Israel expresses skepticism of Rouhani’s intentions and continues to assert that it might take unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if Iran appears on the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon. Rouhani’s presidency has the potential to increase the domestic popularity of Iran’s regime if he implements campaign pledges to ease repression and social restrictions. His unexpected election win—a result of a large turnout of reform-minded voters such as those who protested the 2009 election results—appeared to counter the views of many experts who assessed the domestic reform movement as cowed by regime suppression and inactive. In September 2013, his government released nearly 80 political prisoners. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
, by Kenneth Katzman; and CRS Report R40094,
 Iran’s Nuclear  Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations
, by Paul K. Kerr.
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses Congressional Research Service
Contents
Political History ............................................................................................................................... 1
 
Regime Structure, Stability, and Opposition .................................................................................... 2
 
Unelected or Indirectly Elected Institutions: The Supreme Leader, Council of Guardians, and Expediency Council ...................................................................................... 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 .................................................................................................... 8
 
Recent Elections: Ahmadinejad Rides Conservative Tide in 2005 ..................................... 8
 
Ahmadinejad Reelection in 2009: Protests and Subsequent Schisms ................................. 9
 
June 2013 Presidential Election ........................................................................................ 10
 
The Opposition ........................................................................................................................ 12
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: Supporters of the Son of the Late Shah of Iran ..................... 13
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: People’s Mojahedin ............................................................... 13
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups ..................................................................... 16
 
Iranian-American Interest Groups ..................................................................................... 17
 
Other Human Rights Practices ....................................................................................................... 17
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies .............................................................................. 18
 
Iran’s Defense Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs .................................... 21
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force ....................................................... 21
 
 Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy .......................................................... 24
 
Assessments of Iran’s Nuclear Program ............................................................................ 24
 
Early International Diplomatic Efforts to Address Iran’s Nuclear Program ..................... 27
 
Developments During the Obama Administration ............................................................ 29
 
Missiles and Chemical/Biological Weapons............................................................................ 34
 
Chemical and Biological Weapons .................................................................................... 35
 
Ballistic and Cruise Missiles and Warheads ...................................................................... 35
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups .......................................................................... 37
 
Support for International Terrorism ......................................................................................... 37
 
Foreign Policy: Relations with the Persian Gulf States ........................................................... 38
 
Yemen ................................................................................................................................ 41
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq ............................................................................................................... 41
 
Supporting Militant Anti-Israel Groups ................................................................................... 42
 
Iran and Hamas.................................................................................................................. 43
 
Iran and Hezbollah ............................................................................................................ 43
 
Syria ......................................................................................................................................... 45
 
The Caucasus and Central Asia ............................................................................................... 46
 
South and East Asia ................................................................................................................. 47
 
East Asia ............................................................................................................................ 47
 
South Asia: Afghanistan .................................................................................................... 47
 
Pakistan ............................................................................................................................. 48
 
India ................................................................................................................................... 49
 
Al Qaeda .................................................................................................................................. 49
 
Latin America .......................................................................................................................... 50
 

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