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CRS-Iran, June 9, 2011

CRS-Iran, June 9, 2011

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs June 9, 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 Iran’s nuclear program but also by its materiel assistance to armed groups in Iraq
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Dr. Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs June 9, 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 Iran’s nuclear program but also by its materiel assistance to armed groups in Iraq

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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 Affairs June 9, 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, aperception generated not only by Iran’s nuclear program but also by its materiel assistance toarmed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to LebaneseHezbollah. Throughout its first year, the Obama Administration offered Iran’s leaders consistentand sustained engagement with the potential for closer integration with and acceptance by theWest. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administrationdownplayed any discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities orefforts to try to change Iran’s regime.The Administration held to this position at the height of the protests by the domestic opposition“Green movement” that took place for the six months following Iran’s June 12, 2009, presidentialelection but largely ceased in 2010. However, after failing to obtain Iran’s agreement toimplement a compromise outlined on October 1, 2009, the Administration worked during 2010 toexpand international economic sanctions against Iran. Major sanctions were imposed on Iran bythe U.N. Security Council (Resolution 1929), as well as related “national measures” by theEuropean Union, Japan, South Korea, and other countries. Additional measures designed tocompel foreign firms to exit the Iranian market were contained in U.S. legislation passed in June2010 (the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, P.L. 111-195).Still, the Administration and its partners assert that these sanctions were intended to supportdiplomacy with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Iran attended December 6-7, 2010, talks inGeneva with the six powers negotiating with Iran, but no substantive progress was reported. Norwas there progress at subsequent talks in Turkey on January 21-22, 2011, and an exchange of letters between Iran and the six powers during February-May 2011 did not produce agreement fora new meeting. U.S. officials indicate that additional pressure could be forthcoming, althoughwith no stipulated timeframe.Subsequent to the failed January 2011 nuclear talks with Iran (and in the context of the popularuprisings throughout the Middle East in 2011) the Administration has increased its public supportof the Green movement. Although some in the 112
th
Congress believe the United States should domore to support the democracy movement in Iran, there are no indications the Administrationplans to provide direct, material support to the Green movement. Nor has the Administrationruled out further diplomacy with Iran on the nuclear or other issues, such as Afghanistan stability.While trying to crush its own dissident movement, the Iranian leadership has sought to protect itsally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, from being overcome by protests. In line with long-standing policy of supporting regional Shiite movements, Iran may be helping Shiite factions inBahrain that have participated in a broad but thus far unsuccessful uprising there.Others in and outside the 112
th
Congress believe that the U.S. focus should remain on pressingIran economically and diplomatically. Sanctions, by some accounts, have slowed Iran’s nuclearprogram directly and may be contributing to a widening schism between Iran’s Supreme Leaderand its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but have not evidently caused Iran to fundamentallyrethink its nuclear negotiating position. The apparent slowing of Iran’s nuclear program has, atleast temporarily, quieted discussion in Israeli and U.S. expert circles about using military actionto set Iran’s nuclear program back. The Administration has stepped up arms sales to regionalstates that share the U.S. suspicions of Iran’s intentions. For further information, see CRS ReportRS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
; CRS Report R40849, Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy; andCRS 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 OtherRuling Councils.................................................................................................................3
 
Council of Guardians and Expediency Council................................................................3
 
Elected Institutions: The Presidency, the Majles (Parliament), the Assembly of Experts, and Recent Elections............................................................................................8
 
First Ahmadinejad Election in 2005.................................................................................9
 
Ahmadinejad (Disputed) Reelection on June 12, 2009: Protests Erupt...........................10
 
Ahmadinejad’s Second Term: Divisions Within the Regime Increase WithPopular Unrest As Backdrop......................................................................................11
 
The Opposition: The “Green Movement”............................................................................14
 
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...................................................................18
 
Other Human Rights Practices...................................................................................................19
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies...........................................................................19
 
Special U.N. Rapporteur Reestablished.........................................................................20
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs..................................22
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.....................................................22
 
Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy.......................................................25
 
Time Frame Estimates...................................................................................................26
 
Iran’s Arguments and Strategic Rationale for Its Program..............................................26
 
The International Response...........................................................................................27
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.......................................31
 
Possible Additional U.N. Sanctions...............................................................................35
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles........................................................37
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads...........................................................................................37
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups.......................................................................38
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.................................................................................40
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...........................................................................................................42
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups...............................................................................43
 
Iran and Hamas.............................................................................................................43
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria.............................................................................................44
 
Syria.............................................................................................................................45
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...............................................................................................46
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.......................................................................47
 
Afghanistan..................................................................................................................47
 
Pakistan........................................................................................................................48
 
India.............................................................................................................................48
 
Al Qaeda.............................................................................................................................49
 
Latin America.....................................................................................................................50
 
Venezuela.....................................................................................................................50
 
Africa.................................................................................................................................50
 

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