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CRS: Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Author: Kenneth Katzman
June 22, 2009

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This CRS report details the Obama administration's approach in dealing with Iran's growing strategic capabilities and regional influence, noting the debate over whether or not a policy of engagement is politicallyfeasible in the aftermath of the country's disputed presidential election.

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 also has de-emphasized policies that have angered Iranian leaders including: ratcheting up international sanctions, efforts to promote democracy in Iran, and the potential for U.S. military action. In May 2009, President Obama said his Administration might renew the previous focus on sanctioning and pressuring Iran if, by the end of 2009, Iran does not show signs of willingness to compromise. 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.

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