Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses Page: 2 of 52
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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
According to the Administration's "National Security Strategy" document
released on March 16, 2006, the United States "may face no greater challenge from
a single country than Iran." That perception, generated first and foremost by Iran's
developing nuclear program, intensified following the military confrontation between
Iranian-armed and assisted Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel in July-August 2006. To
date, the Bush Administration has pursued several avenues to attempt to contain the
potential threat posed by Iran, but the Administration's focus on preventing an
Iranian nuclear weapons breakthrough has brought diplomatic strategy to the
forefront. The Bush Administration announced May 31, 2006, it would negotiate
with Iran in concert with U.S. allies if Iran suspends uranium enrichment. However,
Iran did not comply with an August 31, 2006, deadline to cease uranium enrichment,
contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696 (July 31, 2006). After almost
four months of negotiations during which Russia and, to a lesser extent, China,
argued that diplomacy with Iran would yield greater results than would sanctions, the
Security Council agreed to impose some modest sanctions on trade with Iran's
nuclear infrastructure and a freeze on trade with and the assets of related entities and
personalities. (Resolution 1737, passed unanimously on December 23, 2006).
Other Iranian policies - particularly its material support to groups that use
violence to prevent Israeli-Arab peace or undermine pro-U.S. governments - are
attracting growing U.S. concern. These groups include Lebanese Hezbollah that is
challenging a pro-U.S. government in Beirut and the Palestinian groups Hamas and
Palestinian Islamic Jihad that refuse to accept negotiations with Israel. Some U.S.
officials also believe that Iran is purposefully harboring several senior Al Qaeda
activists, although Iran claims they are "in custody." U.S. officials also accuse Iran
of attempting to exert influence in Iraq and causing the deaths of U.S. troops by
providing arms and other material assistance to Shiite Islamist militias, some of
which are participating in escalating sectarian violence against Iraq's Sunnis there.
Although still focused on international diplomacy to curb Iran's nuclear
program, the Administration is increasingly pursuing a containment strategy,
including a naval buildup in the Persian Gulf, efforts to persuade European
governments to curb trade with Iran, and pressure on foreign banks not to do business
with Iran. Amid signs that the pressure is causing increased strains among leaders
in Iran, the Administration strongly denies it is planning on military action against
Iran. Still, some in the Administration believe that only a change of Iran's regime
would end the threat posed by Iran. However, few experts believe that U.S.
promotion of pro-democracy or anti-regime elements would likely succeed in
wholesale replacement of the regime.
For further information, see CRS Report RS20871, The Iran Sanctions Act
(ISA), by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report RS21592, Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent
Developments, by Sharon Squassoni; and CRS Report RS22323, Iran's Influence in
Iraq, by Kenneth Katzman. This report will be updated as warranted.
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Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, report, February 20, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815924/m1/2/: accessed January 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.