"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 Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. 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 for closer integration with and acceptance by the West. To try to convince Iranian leaders of peaceful U.S. intent and respect for Iran's history and stature in the region, the Obama Administration downplayed discussion of potential U.S. military action against Iranian nuclear facilities and repeatedly insisted that it did not seek to change Iran's regime. It held to this position even at the height of the protests by the domestic opposition 'Green movement' that emerged following Iran's June 12, 2009, presidential election. [...] There is broad agreement that the U.S., U.N. [United Nations], and other sanctions enacted since mid-2010 are pressing Iran economically. However, because the sanctions have not and might not cause Iran to fundamentally alter its commitment to its nuclear program, some are pressing the Administration not to de-emphasize military action as a means of setting Iran's nuclear program back. The Administration has stepped up arms sales and engagement with regional states that might be helpful to contain Iranian power, were Iran's nuclear program to advance dramatically. Some believe that only a victory by the domestic opposition in Iran, which in late 2009 appeared to pose a potentially serious challenge to the regime's grip on power, can permanently reduce the multiplicity of threats posed by Iran's regime. Congressional resolutions and legislation since mid-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. However, Obama Administration officials say they believe that the opposition's prospects are enhanced by a muting of U.S. public support for the opposition."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32048