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CRS-Iran, August 8, 2011

CRS-Iran, August 8, 2011

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs August 8, 2011

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL32048

CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Summary
The Obama Administration views Iran as a major threat to U.S. national security interests, a perception generated not only by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program but also by its mater
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs August 8, 2011

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL32048

CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Summary
The Obama Administration views Iran as a major threat to U.S. national security interests, a perception generated not only by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program but also by its mater

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Published by: Confederation of Iranian students on Oct 23, 2011
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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 AffairsAugust 8, 2011
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Summary
The Obama Administration views Iran as a major threat to U.S. national security interests, a perception generated not only by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program butalso by its materiel assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian groupHamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. As of mid-2011, U.S. officials are increasingly critical of what they say is stepped-up Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias that have attacked U.S. forces,who are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.To try to address the threat from Iran, the Obama Administration offered Iran’s leaders consistentand sustained engagement with the potential for closer integration with and acceptance by theWest in exchange for limits to its nuclear program. However, after observing a crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran in 2009, and failing to obtain Iran’s agreement to implement an October 2009 tentative nuclear compromise, the Administration worked during 2010 and 2011 to increaseeconomic and political pressure on Iran. Major sanctions were imposed on Iran by the U.N.Security Council (Resolution 1929), as well as related “national measures” by the EuropeanUnion, Japan, South Korea, and other countries. Additional measures designed to compel foreignfirms to exit the Iranian market were contained in U.S. legislation passed in June 2010 (theComprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, P.L. 111-195).Perhaps hoping to avoid additional sanctions, Iran attended December 6-7, 2010, talks in Genevawith the six powers negotiating with Iran. However, indicating that Iran had not fundamentallyaltered its position, no substantive progress was reported at that or at subsequent talks in Turkeyon January 21-22, 2011. U.S. officials indicate that additional pressure could be forthcoming,although with no stipulated timeframe, while also stating that the “door is open” to further nuclear talks. Some in and outside the 112
th
Congress hold out no hope for further talks and believe thatU.S. and international economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran should increase. Additionalsanctions, according to this view, might yet succeed in forcing a change of Iran’s nuclear policy,and help widen an increasingly open power struggle between Iran’s Supreme Leader and itsPresident, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Administration has stepped up arms sales to regionalstates that share the U.S. suspicions of Iran’s intentions, but there does not appear to beconsideration of U.S., Israeli, or Persian Gulf military action against Iran.Subsequent to the failed January 2011 nuclear talks with Iran (and in the context of the popular uprisings throughout the Middle East in 2011), the Administration has increased its public supportof the Iranian opposition “Green movement.” Some in the 112
th
Congress believe the UnitedStates should do more to support the democracy movement in Iran in the context of the ArabSpring uprisings in 2011, but there are no indications the Administration plans to provide Iran’sopposition with direct, material support. While trying to crush its own dissident movement, theIranian leadership has sought to protect its ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, from beingovercome by protests. In line with long-standing policy of supporting regional Shiite movements,Iran may be helping Shiite factions in Bahrain that have participated in a broad but thus far unsuccessful uprising there. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
;and CRS Report RL34544,
 Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status
.
 
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......................................................................................................................3
 
Council of Guardians and Expediency Council..................................................................3
 
Elected Institutions: The Presidency, the Majles (Parliament), the Assembly of Experts, and Recent Elections................................................................................................7
 
First Ahmadinejad Election in 2005....................................................................................8
 
Ahmadinejad (Disputed) Reelection on June 12, 2009: Protests Erupt..............................9
 
Ahmadinejad’s Second Term: Divisions Within the Regime Increase WithPopular Unrest As Backdrop..........................................................................................11
 
The Opposition: The “Green Movement”...............................................................................14
 
Green Movement Allies and Other Activists Based in the United States..........................15
 
The Opposition: Armed Factions.............................................................................................16
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf......................................16
 
Pro-Monarchy Radical Groups..........................................................................................18
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups.....................................................................19
 
Other Human Rights Practices.......................................................................................................19
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies..............................................................................20
 
Special U.N. Rapporteur Reestablished............................................................................20
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs...................................22
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.......................................................23
 
 Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy..........................................................26
 
Time Frame Estimates.......................................................................................................27
 
Iran’s Arguments and Strategic Rationale for Its Program................................................27
 
The International Response...............................................................................................28
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.........................................32
 
Possible Additional U.N. Actions......................................................................................36
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles..........................................................38
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads..............................................................................................38
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups..........................................................................39
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.....................................................................................41
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...............................................................................................................43
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups..................................................................................44
 
Iran and Hamas..................................................................................................................45
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria................................................................................................45
 
Syria..................................................................................................................................47
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...................................................................................................47
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India..........................................................................48
 
Afghanistan.......................................................................................................................48
 
Pakistan.............................................................................................................................49
 
India...................................................................................................................................50
 
Al Qaeda..................................................................................................................................50
 
Latin America..........................................................................................................................51
 
Venezuela..........................................................................................................................51
 
Africa.......................................................................................................................................52
 

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