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CRS-Iran, September 28, 2011

CRS-Iran, September 28, 2011

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs September 28, 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 by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program as well as its materiel as
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs September 28, 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 by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program as well as its materiel as

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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 AffairsSeptember 28, 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 by uncertainty about Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program as well as itsmateriel assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, andto Lebanese Hezbollah. Since mid-2011, U.S. officials have openly accused Iran of stepping upsupport for Iraqi Shiite militias that have attacked U.S. forces. U.S. officials also accuse Iran of helping Syria’s leadership use force and other methods to try to defeat a growing popular opposition movement, and of taking advantage of Shiite majority unrest against the Sunni-led, pro-U.S. government of Bahrain.The Obama Administration initially offered Iran’s leaders consistent and sustained engagementwith the potential for closer integration with and acceptance by the West in exchange for limits toits nuclear program. After observing a crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran in 2009, and failingto obtain Iran’s agreement to implement an October 2009 tentative nuclear compromise, theAdministration has worked since early 2010 to increase economic and diplomatic pressure onIran. Significant additional sanctions were imposed on Iran by the U.N. Security Council(Resolution 1929), as well as related “national measures” by the European Union, Japan, SouthKorea, and other countries. Further measures intended to compel foreign firms to exit the Iranianmarket were contained in U.S. legislation passed in June 2010 (the Comprehensive IranSanctions, 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 those 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 a willingness to engage in further nuclear talks. The prospects for new talks increased in August 2011 as a result of Iran-Russiadiscussions of new formulas for compromise, which were followed by Iranian official statementssuggesting potential Iranian acceptance of some widely discussed international proposals on theissue. Some in and outside the 112
th
Congress hold out no hope for an acceptable compromise and believe that the United States and its partners should increase economic and diplomatic pressureon Iran should increase. The Administration has stepped up arms sales to regional states that sharethe U.S. suspicions of Iran’s intentions, but there does not appear to be consideration of U.S.,Israeli, or Persian Gulf military action against Iran.In 2011, in the context of the popular uprisings throughout the Middle East, and perhapsaddressing criticism that it did not sufficiently support the popular uprising in Iran in 2009, theAdministration has increased its public support of the Iranian opposition “Green Movement.”Some in the 112
th
Congress believe the United States should become even more vocal insupporting the democracy movement in Iran, and perhaps provide material support to Iranianactivists, but there are no indications the Administration plans to do so. 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 and Arab Uprisings As Backdrop..........................................................11
 
The Opposition........................................................................................................................14
 
The Green Movement........................................................................................................14
 
Green Movement Allies and Other U.S.-Based Activists..................................................15
 
The Opposition: Armed Factions.............................................................................................17
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf......................................17
 
Pro-Monarchy Radical Groups..........................................................................................19
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups.....................................................................20
 
Other Human Rights Practices.......................................................................................................21
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies..............................................................................21
 
Special U.N. Rapporteur Reestablished............................................................................21
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs...................................24
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.......................................................24
 
 Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy..........................................................27
 
Time Frame Estimates.......................................................................................................28
 
Iran’s Arguments and Strategic Rationale for Its Program................................................28
 
The International Response...............................................................................................29
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.........................................33
 
Possible Additional U.N. Actions......................................................................................37
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles..........................................................39
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads..............................................................................................39
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups..........................................................................40
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.....................................................................................42
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...............................................................................................................44
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups..................................................................................45
 
Iran and Hamas..................................................................................................................46
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria................................................................................................46
 
Syria..................................................................................................................................48
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...................................................................................................49
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India..........................................................................49
 
Afghanistan.......................................................................................................................49
 
Pakistan.............................................................................................................................51
 
India...................................................................................................................................51
 
Al Qaeda..................................................................................................................................52
 
Latin America..........................................................................................................................53
 
Venezuela..........................................................................................................................53
 

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