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CRS-Iran, August 20, 2010

CRS-Iran, August 20, 2010

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs August 20, 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 adopted the long-standing assessment of Iran as a “profound threat to U.S. national security interests.” This threat perception is generated not only by Iran’s nuclear program b
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs August 20, 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 adopted the long-standing assessment of Iran as a “profound threat to U.S. national security interests.” This threat perception is generated not only by Iran’s nuclear program b

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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 AffairsAugust 20, 2010
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Summary
The Obama Administration has adopted the long-standing assessment of Iran as a “profoundthreat to U.S. national security interests.” This threat perception is 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 previous U.S. approach by expanding direct diplomatic engagement with Iran’sgovernment and by offering Iran’s leaders an alternative vision of closer integration with andacceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the ObamaAdministration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclearfacilities and repeatedly insisted that it did not seek to change Iran’s regime. It held to thisposition even at the height of the protests by the domestic opposition “Green movement” thatemerged following Iran’s June 12, 2009, presidential election.Iran’s refusal to accept the details of an October 1, 2009, tentative agreement to lessen concernsabout its nuclear intentions—coupled with its crackdown on the Green movement—caused theAdministration, in 2010, to shift toward building multilateral support for strict economicsanctions against Iran. The Administration efforts bore fruit on June 9, 2009 when a U.N. SecurityCouncil was adopted (Resolution 1929) that required countries to take a number of significantsteps against Iran, including banning major arms sales to Iran, and authorized a number of additional significant steps. The European Union, in July 2010, subsequently announcedmultilateral sanctions against Iran that use much of the authorities of Resolution 1929, and whichalso supports elements of U.S. legislations passed in June 2010 (the Comprehensive IranSanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, P.L. 11-195). The new sanctions represent arejection of a May 17, 2010, agreement brokered by Brazil and Turkey to implement majorfeatures of the October 1, 2009, agreement.Many observers assess that the U.S., U.N., and EU sanctions enacted in June and July 2010 arepressing Iran economically. However, because the sanctions have not caused Iran tofundamentally alter its commitment to its nuclear program and might not ever achieve thatobjective, the Administration reportedly has revived deliberations of possible military action totry to set Iran’s nuclear program back. Other options include methods to contain Iran if it doesbecome a nuclear armed power. Some believe that only domestic opposition in Iran, which in late2009 appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the regime’s grip on power, may providea clear opportunity to reduce the potential threat of a nuclear Iran. 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. Others maintain that the prospects for thedomestic opposition, which has been largely absent from the streets in 2010, are poor, and thatother options are fraught with risks, and that the Administration should return to a focus onreaching a nuclear agreement with Iran. For further information, see CRS Report RS20871,
 IranSanctions
; CRS Report R40849,
 Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy
; and CRS ReportRL34544,
 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/Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...............................................................................7
 
Ahmadinejad’s Policies and Political Position.................................................................8
 
June 12, 2009, Presidential Elections.............................................................................10
 
Domestic Unrest: Election Dispute and Emergence of the “Green Movement”....................10
 
Green Movement Formation.........................................................................................11
 
How Shaken and Divided Is the Regime?......................................................................12
 
Additional Political Fallout of Economic Sanctions.......................................................12
 
Armed Opposition Factions.................................................................................................12
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf....................................13
 
Pro-Monarchy Radical Groups......................................................................................15
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups...................................................................15
 
Other Human Rights Practices...................................................................................................15
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs..................................18
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.....................................................18
 
Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy.......................................................21
 
Iranian Recent Nuclear Activities..................................................................................21
 
Iran’s Arguments...........................................................................................................22
 
The International Response...........................................................................................23
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.......................................27
 
Possible Additional International and Multilateral Sanctions to Address Iran’sNuclear Program........................................................................................................31
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles........................................................33
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads...........................................................................................33
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups.......................................................................34
 
Relations with the Persian Gulf States.................................................................................35
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...........................................................................................................38
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups...............................................................................38
 
Iran and Hamas.............................................................................................................38
 
Lebanese Hezbollah and Syria.............................................................................................39
 
Syria.............................................................................................................................41
 
Central Asia and the Caspian...............................................................................................41
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India ......................................................................42
 
Afghanistan..................................................................................................................42
 
Pakistan........................................................................................................................43
 
India.............................................................................................................................43
 
Al Qaeda.............................................................................................................................43
 
Latin America.....................................................................................................................44
 
Venezuela.....................................................................................................................45
 
Africa.................................................................................................................................45
 
U.S. Policy Approaches and Additional Options........................................................................45
 
Clinton Administration Policy.......................................................................................46
 
George W. Bush Administration Policy.........................................................................46
 

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