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CRS-Iran, January 19, 2011

CRS-Iran, January 19, 2011

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs January 19, 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 military assistance to armed groups in I
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs January 19, 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 military assistance to armed groups in I

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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 January 19, 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 military assistance toarmed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to LebaneseHezbollah. Particularly in its first year, the Obama Administration altered the previous U.S.approach by offering Iran’s leaders consistent and sustained engagement with the potential forcloser integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peacefulU.S. intent and respect for Iran’s history and stature in the region, the Obama Administrationdownplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities andrepeatedly insisted that it did not seek to change Iran’s regime. It held to this position even at theheight of the protests by the domestic opposition “Green movement” that took place for the sixmonths following Iran’s June 12, 2009, presidential election but largely ceased in 2010.Iran’s refusal to accept the details of an October 1, 2009, tentative agreement on nuclear issues—a framework that was the product of nearly a year of diplomacy with Iran—caused theAdministration to shift toward building multilateral support for additional economic sanctionsagainst Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit throughout the summer of 2010 with theadoption of new sanctions by the U.N. Security Council (Resolution 1929), as well as related“national measures” by the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and other countries. Additionalmeasures designed to compel foreign firms to exit the Iranian market were contained in U.S.legislation passed in June 2010 (the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, andDivestment Act, P.L. 111-195). Still, the Administration and its partners assert that these sanctionsare intended to pave the way for successful diplomacy with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Iranaccepted December 6-7, 2010, talks in Geneva with the six power contact group negotiating withIran, but no substantive progress was reported. There was agreement for follow-on talks inTurkey, set for January 21-22, 2011. U.S. officials have indicated additional pressure could beforthcoming if there are no clear results from these sets of talks.There is broad agreement that the U.S., U.N., and other sanctions enacted since mid-2010 arepressing Iran economically and, in conjunction with other measures, have even slowed Iran’snuclear program directly. Iran is reacting to the economic pressure, in part, by trying torestructure its economy to reduce subsidies and suppress demand for such imported items asgasoline. However, because there are no clear indications, to date, that Iran is willing tofundamentally alter its commitment to its nuclear program, some are pressing the Administrationnot to de-emphasize military action as a means of setting Iran’s nuclear program back. TheAdministration has stepped up arms sales and engagement with regional states that might behelpful to contain Iranian power, were Iran’s nuclear program to advance dramatically. Somebelieve that only a victory by the domestic opposition in Iran, which in late 2009 appeared to posea potentially serious challenge to the regime’s grip on power, can permanently reduce themultiplicity of threats posed by Iran’s regime. Congressional resolutions and legislation sincemid-2009 show growing congressional support for steps to enhance the opposition’s prospects, or,at the very least, to sharply increase international criticism of Iran’s human rights practices. Someobservers believe that initiatives in the 112
th
Congress are likely to focus on providing additionalhelp to those in Iran who want to change the regime. However, Obama Administration officialssay they believe that the opposition’s prospects are enhanced by a muting of U.S. public supportfor the opposition. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
; CRSReport R40849,
 Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy
; 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
 
The Supreme Leader, His Powers, and Other Ruling Councils...............................................2
 
The Presidency and the Majles (Parliament)..........................................................................7
 
First Ahmadinejad Election (2005)..................................................................................8
 
June 12, 2009, Presidential Elections...............................................................................8
 
Ahmadinejad’s Policies and Divisions Within the Regime...............................................9
 
Economy and Sanctions-Driven Schisms.......................................................................10
 
The Opposition: 2009 Election Dispute and Emergence of the “Green Movement”..............12
 
Green Movement Formation.........................................................................................12
 
Armed Opposition Factions.................................................................................................14
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf....................................14
 
Pro-Monarchy Radical Groups......................................................................................16
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups...................................................................16
 
Other Human Rights Practices...................................................................................................17
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs..................................20
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.....................................................20
 
Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy.......................................................23
 
Iranian Recent Nuclear Activities..................................................................................23
 
Iran’s Arguments...........................................................................................................24
 
The International Response...........................................................................................25
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.......................................29
 
Possible Additional International and Multilateral Sanctions to AddressIran’s Nuclear Program..............................................................................................33
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles........................................................35
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads...........................................................................................35
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups.......................................................................36
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.................................................................................37
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...........................................................................................................40
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups...............................................................................40
 
Iran and Hamas.............................................................................................................41
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria.............................................................................................42
 
Syria.............................................................................................................................43
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...............................................................................................43
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India ......................................................................44
 
Afghanistan..................................................................................................................44
 
Pakistan........................................................................................................................45
 
India.............................................................................................................................46
 
Al Qaeda.............................................................................................................................46
 
Latin America.....................................................................................................................47
 
Venezuela.....................................................................................................................47
 
Africa.................................................................................................................................48
 
U.S. Policy Approaches and Additional Options........................................................................48
 
Clinton Administration Policy.......................................................................................49
 
George W. Bush Administration Policy.........................................................................49
 

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