"The Bush Administration has pursued several avenues to attempt to contain the potential strategic threat posed by Iran, at times pursuing limited engagement with Iran and at other times leaning toward attempting to change its regime. Some experts believe a crisis is looming over Iran's nuclear program, and the Bush Administration is working with several allies and other countries to try to design new options to head off a nuclear breakout by Iran. U.S. sanctions currently in effect ban or strictly limit U.S. trade, aid, and investment in Iran and penalize foreign firms that invest in Iran's energy sector, but unilateral U.S. sanctions do not appear to have significantly slowed Iran's WMD programs to date. Iran's human rights practices and strict limits on democracy have been consistently and harshly criticized by official U.S. reports, particularly for Iran's suppression of religious and ethnic minorities. However, Iran does hold elections for some positions, including that of president, suggesting that there might be benefits to engaging Iranian officials. According to this view, new sanctions or military action could harden Iran's positions without necessarily easing the potential threat posed by Iran. For further information, see CRS Report RS21592, 'Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developments', and CRS Report RS21548, 'Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities'. This report will be updated as warranted by developments."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32048