Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses [December 31, 2008]   [open pdf - 2MB]

"The Bush Administration has characterized Iran as a 'profound threat to U.S. national security interests,' a perception generated primarily by Iran's nuclear program and its military assistance to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Palestinian group Hamas, and to Lebanese Hezbollah. The Bush Administration's approach has been to try to prevent a nuclear breakout by Iran by applying coordinated international economic pressure on Iran while also offering it potential cooperation should it comply with the international demands to suspend its enrichment of uranium. The incorporation of diplomacy and engagement into the overall U.S. strategy led the Administration to approve the participation of a high-level State Department official at multilateral nuclear talks with Iran on July 19, 2008, although that meeting, and subsequent discussions, have not resulted in Iran's acceptance of the international offer of incentives. [...]. Amid widespread recognition that most U.S. goals on Iran have not been accomplished, the incoming Obama Administration, based on statements from President-elect Obama, is likely to shift toward more consistent engagement with Iran and to de-emphasize potential U.S. military action or efforts to promote democracy in Iran. Yet, there is a vigorous debate among experts over whether such shifts would yield clearer results. The policy decisions come as Iran enters its runup to June 2009 presidential elections, which most U.S. experts hope will produce change to more moderate leadership in Iran."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32048
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