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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses June 26, 2012

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses June 26, 2012

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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs June 26, 2012

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 issue of Iran and its nuclear program has emerged as a top priority for the Obama Administration. A sense of potential crisis in late 2011 and early 2012 was generated by growing suspicions in the interna
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
Kenneth Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs June 26, 2012

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 issue of Iran and its nuclear program has emerged as a top priority for the Obama Administration. A sense of potential crisis in late 2011 and early 2012 was generated by growing suspicions in the interna

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Published by: Confederation of Iranian students on Jul 06, 2012
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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 26, 2012
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL32048
 
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy ResponsesCongressional Research Service
Summary
The issue of Iran and its nuclear program has emerged as a top priority for the ObamaAdministration. A sense of potential crisis in late 2011 and early 2012 was generated by growingsuspicions in the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is not for purely peaceful purposes, and the determination of the government of Israel, in particular, that it might takeunilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if its progress is not soon halted.The heightened tensions follow three years in which the Obama Administration has assembled a broad international coalition to pressure Iran through economic sanctions while also offeringsustained engagement with Iran if it verifiably assures the international community that itsnuclear program is peaceful. None of the pressure has, to date, altered Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear  program: Iran attended December 2010 and January 2011 talks with the six powers negotiatingwith Iran, but no progress was reported at any of these meetings. In early 2012, Iran beganuranium enrichment at a deep underground facility near Qom to a level of 20% enrichment.However, since the beginning of 2012, as significant multilateral sanctions have been added onIran’s oil exports—including an oil purchase embargo by the European Union to go into fulleffect by July 1, 2012—there are growing indications that the regime feels economic pressure.Iran’s leaders have accepted nuclear talks without preconditions and three rounds have taken place—April 13-14, 2012, in Istanbul; May 23-24, 2012, in Baghdad; and June 18-19, 2012, inMoscow. The three rounds yielded no breakthroughs, but did delve extensively into the two sides’ positions—the crux of which would be an end to Iran’s enrichment to 20% purity in exchange for substantial sanctions relief. Technical talks will be conducted on July 3, 2012, to determinewhether there is sufficient common ground for another round of high level talks.The United States has long seen a threat to U.S. interests posed by Iran’s support for militantgroups in the Middle East and in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. officials accuse Iran of helpingSyria’s leadership try to defeat a growing popular opposition movement and of taking advantageof Shiite majority unrest against the Sunni-led, pro-U.S. government of Bahrain. However, todate, these issues have not generated the same sense of crisis that the nuclear issue has.The Administration and many outside experts also perceive that the legitimacy and popularity of Iran’s regime is in decline, although not to the point where the regime’s grip on power isthreatened. The regime has sought to use the international pressure to rally the public to its side, playing on nationalist sentiment to encourage high turnout in the March 2, 2012, parliamentaryelections. The boycott of the poll by reformist groups rendered the election a contest betweenfactions supporting either President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i.Khamene’i supporters were elected overwhelmingly, helping him solidify his control over day-to-day governance. Over the past two years, the United States and international community havealso increased public criticism of Iran’s human rights record and its monitoring of the Internet.Some in the 112
th
Congress, aside from supporting additional economic sanctions against Iran,assert that the United States should provide additional political support to the democracymovement in Iran, despite the relative quiescence of the opposition since early 2010. TheAdministration argues that it has supported the opposition through civil society and other  programs, and by using recent authorities to sanction Iranian officials who suppress human rightsin Iran and help Syria repress human rights. For further information, including pending Iransanctions legislation, see CRS Report RS20871,
 Iran Sanctions
, and CRS Report R40094,
 Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations
, by Paul K. Kerr.
 
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......................................................................................................................2
 
Council of Guardians and Expediency Council..................................................................3
 
Elected Institutions: The Presidency, the Majles (Parliament), the Assembly of Experts, and Recent Elections................................................................................................7
 
The Presidency....................................................................................................................7
 
The Majles...........................................................................................................................8
 
The Assembly of Experts....................................................................................................9
 
Recent Elections: First Ahmadinejad Election in 2005.......................................................9
 
Ahmadinejad (Disputed) Reelection on June 12, 2009: Protests Erupt and SecondTerm is Riven by Schisms..............................................................................................10
 
 Next Presidential Election.................................................................................................13
 
The Opposition........................................................................................................................14
 
The Green Movement and Its Uprising.............................................................................14
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: Supporters of the Son of the Late Shah of Iran.....................15
 
Exiled Opposition Groups: People’s Mojahedin...............................................................16
 
Armed Groups: Pro-Monarchy Radicals...........................................................................19
 
Ethnic or Religiously Based Armed Groups.....................................................................19
 
Iranian American Groups..................................................................................................20
 
Other Human Rights Practices.......................................................................................................21
 
Criticism of Iran’s Record in U.N. Bodies..............................................................................21
 
Special U.N. Rapporteur Reestablished............................................................................22
 
Iran’s Strategic Capabilities and Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs...................................24
 
Conventional Military/Revolutionary Guard/Qods Force.......................................................25
 
 Nuclear Program and Related International Diplomacy..........................................................28
 
Iran’s Nuclear Intentions...................................................................................................28
 
Iran’s Position and Counter-Arguments............................................................................29
 
 Nuclear Weapons Time Frame Estimates..........................................................................30
 
Status of Enrichment.........................................................................................................30
 
The International Response and Policies...........................................................................31
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.........................................34
 
Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, and Missiles..........................................................40
 
Ballistic Missiles/Warheads..............................................................................................40
 
Foreign Policy and Support for Terrorist Groups..........................................................................42
 
Support for International Terrorism.........................................................................................43
 
Foreign Policy: Relations with the Persian Gulf States...........................................................44
 
Yemen................................................................................................................................47
 
Iranian Policy in Iraq...............................................................................................................47
 
Supporting Palestinian Militant Groups..................................................................................48
 
Iran and Hamas..................................................................................................................48
 
Lebanese Hezbollah.................................................................................................................49
 
Syria.........................................................................................................................................51
 
The Caucuses and Central Asia...............................................................................................52
 
South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India..........................................................................53
 

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