"Even before Iran's tacit cooperation with post-September 11 U.S. efforts to defeat Afghanistan's Taliban regime, signs of moderation in Iran had stimulated the United States to try to engage Iran in official talks. Iran, still split between conservatives and reformers loyal to President Mohammad Khatemi did not accept. Recent reports of Iranian meddling in post-Taliban Afghanistan and Iran's intercepted January 2002 shipment of arms allegedly to the Palestinian Authority have reversed the warming trend. Iran was grouped with North Korea and Iraq as part of the 'axis of evil' identified in President Bush's January 29, 2002 State of the Union message. The United States said subsequently it supports reform-minded Iranians who want democracy, an apparent shift from the stance of attempting to engage Khatemi's government. President Bush has identified Iran's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and delivery means, coupled with its support of terrorist groups, as key U.S. concerns. Iran's ballistic missile program has made major strides over the past few years, with the help of several foreign suppliers, and the strides in its civilian nuclear power program could further a nuclear weapons effort."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB93033
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://www.fpc.state.gov/