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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

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Published by Chuck Achberger
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 and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. Throughout its first year, the Obama Administration offered Iran’s leaders consistent and sustained engagement with the potential for closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administration downplayed any discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities or efforts to try to change Iran’s regime.
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 and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. Throughout its first year, the Obama Administration offered Iran’s leaders consistent and sustained engagement with the potential for closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent, the Obama Administration downplayed any discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities or efforts to try to change Iran’s regime.

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Published by: Chuck Achberger on Jul 06, 2011
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05/19/2012

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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 AffairsMay 13, 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 even at the height of the protests by the domesticopposition “Green movement” that took place for the six months following Iran’s June 12, 2009,presidential election but largely ceased in 2010. However, after failing to obtain Iran’s agreementto implement a compromise outlined on October 1, 2009, the Administration worked during 2010to expand international economic sanctions against Iran. Major sanctions were imposed on Iranby the 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 has not produced anagreement for a new meeting. U.S. officials indicate that additional pressure could beforthcoming, although with no particular timeframe.Subsequent to the January 2011 nuclear talks (and in the context of the public reactivation of theGreen movement and popular uprisings throughout the Middle East in 2011) the Administrationhas increased its public support of the Green movement. Although some in the 112
th
Congressbelieve the United States should do more to support the democracy movement in Iran, there areno indications the Administration plans to provide direct, material support to the Greenmovement. Nor has the Administration ruled out further diplomacy with Iran on the nuclear orother issues, such as Afghanistan stability.Others in and outside Congress believe that the U.S. focus should remain on pressing Iraneconomically and diplomatically. Sanctions, by some accounts, have slowed Iran’s nuclearprogram directly and may be contributing to a growing schism between Iran’s Supreme Leaderand its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran is reacting to the economic pressure, in part, bytrying to restructure its economy to reduce subsidies and suppress demand for such importeditems as gasoline. The apparent slowing of Iran’s nuclear program has, at least temporarily,quieted discussion in Israeli and U.S. expert circles about using military action to set Iran’snuclear program back. The Administration has stepped up arms sales to regional states that sharethe U.S. suspicions of Iran’s intentions. 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
 
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...........................................................................................................11
 
The Opposition: The “Green Movement”............................................................................14
 
The Opposition: Armed Factions.........................................................................................15
 
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)/Camp Ashraf....................................15
 
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...................................................................................................25
 
Iran’s Arguments and Strategic Rationale for Its Program..............................................26
 
The International Response...........................................................................................27
 
The International Response Under the Obama Administration.......................................31
 
Possible Additional International 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.......................................................................46
 
Afghanistan..................................................................................................................47
 
Pakistan........................................................................................................................48
 
India.............................................................................................................................48
 
Al Qaeda.............................................................................................................................48
 
Latin America.....................................................................................................................49
 
Venezuela.....................................................................................................................50
 
Africa.................................................................................................................................50
 

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