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CRS-Iran, September 2, 2011

CRS-Iran, September 2, 2011

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs September 2, 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 ma
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs September 2, 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 ma

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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 2, 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. U.S. officials are highly critical of what they say is stepped-up Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias that have attacked U.S. forces, who are scheduled toleave Iraq by the end of 2011. U.S. officials also accuse Iran of helping Syria’s leadership useforce and other methods to try to defeat a growing popular opposition movement, and of takingadvantage 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 political pressure on Iran.Major sanctions were imposed on Iran by the U.N. Security Council (Resolution 1929), as well asrelated “national measures” by the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and other countries.Additional measures designed to compel foreign firms to exit the Iranian market were containedin U.S. legislation passed in June 2010 (the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, andDivestment 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 a willingness to engage in further nuclear talks. The prospects for new talks increased in August 2011 as a result of Iran-Russiatalks on new formulas for compromise. Some in and outside the 112
th
Congress hold out no hopefor further talks and believe that U.S. and international economic and diplomatic pressure on Iranshould increase. Additional sanctions, according to this view, might force a change of Iran’snuclear policy, and help widen an increasingly open power struggle between Iran’s SupremeLeader and its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Administration has stepped up arms salesto regional states that share the 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 more vocal in supporting thedemocracy movement in Iran, and perhaps even provide material support to Iranian activists, butthere are no indications the Administration plans to do so. For further information, see CRSReport 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........................................................................................................................13
 
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..........................................................................................19
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups.....................................................................19
 
Other Human Rights Practices.......................................................................................................20
 
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...................................23
 
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...................................................................................................48
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India..........................................................................48
 
Afghanistan.......................................................................................................................48
 
Pakistan.............................................................................................................................50
 
India...................................................................................................................................50
 
Al Qaeda..................................................................................................................................50
 
Latin America..........................................................................................................................51
 
Venezuela..........................................................................................................................52
 

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