"President Obama has said his Administration shares the goals of the previous Administration to contain Iran's strategic capabilities and regional influence, but the Obama Administration has formulated approaches to achieve those goals that differ from those of its predecessor--in particular through expanded direct diplomatic engagement with Iran. This effort has begun to be put in practice with messages to the Iranian people by President Obama, and through a growing number of invitations to and contact with Iranian diplomats at multilateral meetings, including those on Iran's nuclear program. [...] The Administration strategy on Iran is in some flux because of the allegations of a 'stolen election' by the challengers to declared winner of the June 12, 2009 presidential election, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the crackdown against protesters who demanded a new vote. President Obama has criticized Iran's use of violence against protesters, and observers say that the Administration might try to take advantage of Iran's internal weakness to obtain a compromise that curbs Iran's nuclear program. If Iran refuses to return to the nuclear bargaining table, the Administration might focus, at an earlier than expected stage, on sanctioning and pressuring Iran. Bills in the 111th Congress, such as H.R. 2194 and S. 908, would tighten U.S. sanctions on Iran by amending the Iran Sanctions Act to penalize sales to Iran of gasoline and some of the measures contained in these bills have begun to advance as a consequence of the election-related violence. [...] The Obama Administration has not changed the previous Administration's characterization of 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."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32048