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CRS-Iran, May 24, 2010

CRS-Iran, May 24, 2010

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs May 24, 2010

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 has not changed the Bush Administration’s characterization of Iran as a “profound threat to U.S. national security interests,” a perception generated not only by Iran’s nuclear program
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs May 24, 2010

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 has not changed the Bush Administration’s characterization of Iran as a “profound threat to U.S. national security interests,” a perception generated not only by Iran’s nuclear program

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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 AffairsMay 24, 2010
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Summary
The Obama Administration has not changed the Bush Administration’s characterization of Iran asa “profound threat to U.S. national security interests,” a perception generated not only by Iran’snuclear program but also by its military assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to thePalestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. In its first year, the Obama Administrationaltered the U.S. approach for reducing the Iranian threat by expanding direct diplomaticengagement with Iran’s government and by offering Iran’s leaders an alternative vision of closerintegration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S.intent, the Obama Administration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action againstIranian nuclear facilities and has repeatedly insisted that the United States did not directly ormaterially support the domestic opposition movement that emerged following Iran’s June 12,2009, presidential election.Even at the height of the Green movement protests in late 2009, the Obama Administration didnot forego diplomatic options to blunt Iran’s nuclear progress and says it remains open to anuclear deal if Iran fully accepts a framework Iran tentatively agreed to in multilateral talks onOctober 1, 2009. However, Iran did not accept the technical details of this by the notionaldeadline of the end of 2009, nor did it adequately respond to international concerns about possiblework on a nuclear weapons program. These concerns led to an Administration shift towardbuilding a multilateral coalition for additional U.N. sanctions, and apparently prompted theDefense Department to try to develop additional options for preventing or containing a nuclearIran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on May 18, 2010, when it announced an agreementamong permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that would authorize, but not require,countries to take a number of significant steps against Iran, including inspect ships suspected of carrying equipment for Iran’s nuclear program. The announcement represented a U.S. rejection of a May 16, 2010, tentative agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement most featuresof the October 1, 2009, agreement.The newly agreed-to U.N. Security Council sanctions would build on those in place since 2006.Those sanctions generally are targeted against WMD-related trade with Iran, but also ban Iranfrom transferring arms outside Iran and restrict dealings with some Iranian banks. Separate U.S.efforts to persuade European governments to curb trade with, investment in, and credits for Iran,and to convince foreign banks not to do business with Iran, are intended to compound the U.N.pressure. In the 111
th
Congress, conference action is underway on separate legislation to try tocurb sales to Iran of gasoline, which many Members believe could help pressure Iran into anuclear settlement or undermine the regime’s popularity even further. Others believe such stepscould help the regime rebuild its support by painting the international community as punitiveagainst the Iranian people.Some believe that the domestic opposition, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentiallyserious challenge to the regime’s grip on power, may eventually present the United States with anopportunity to see the regime replaced or modified substantially. Obama Administration officialsappear to believe that the opposition’s prospects are enhanced by a low U.S. public profile on theunrest. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-2009 show growing congressionalsupport for steps to enhance the opposition’s prospects. For further information, see CRS ReportRS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report R40849,
 Iran: RegionalPerspectives and U.S. Policy
, coordinated by Casey L. Addis; and CRS Report RL34544,
 Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status
, by Paul K. Kerr.
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Contents
Political History..........................................................................................................................1
 
Regime Structure, Stability, and Opposition................................................................................2
 
The Supreme Leader, His Powers, and Other Ruling Councils...............................................2
 
The Presidency/Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...............................................................................6
 
Ahmadinejad’s Policies and Political Position.................................................................7
 
June 12, 2009, Presidential Elections...............................................................................8
 
Domestic Unrest: Election Dispute and Emergence of the “Green Movement”......................9
 
How Shaken and Divided Is the Regime?......................................................................11
 
Longstanding Opposition Groups in Exile...........................................................................11
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf....................................11
 
The Son of the Former Shah..........................................................................................13
 
Ethnic or Religiously-Based Armed Groups..................................................................13
 
U.S.-Based Activists.....................................................................................................14
 
Other Human Rights Practices...................................................................................................14
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs..................................16
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.....................................................17
 
Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy.......................................................19
 
Iranian Recent Nuclear Activities..................................................................................20
 
Iran’s Arguments...........................................................................................................21
 
The International Response...........................................................................................21
 
Additional International Sanctions Agreed.....................................................................27
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles........................................................28
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads...........................................................................................28
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups.......................................................................30
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.................................................................................31
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...........................................................................................................33
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups...............................................................................34
 
Iran and Hamas.............................................................................................................35
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria.............................................................................................35
 
Syria.............................................................................................................................37
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...............................................................................................37
 
Afghanistan and Pakistan....................................................................................................38
 
Pakistan........................................................................................................................39
 
Al Qaeda.............................................................................................................................39
 
Latin America.....................................................................................................................40
 
India...................................................................................................................................40
 
Africa.................................................................................................................................41
 
U.S. Policy Responses and Options...........................................................................................41
 
Clinton Administration Policy.......................................................................................42
 
George W. Bush Administration Policy.........................................................................42
 
Overview of Obama Administration Policy.........................................................................43
 
Implementation of the Engagement Policy....................................................................44
 
Military Action...................................................................................................................45
 
An Israeli Strike?..........................................................................................................46
 
Iranian Retaliatory Scenarios.........................................................................................46
 

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