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Mistrust between the United States and Iran's Islamic regime has run deep for more than three decades. Some argue that, no matter who is in power in Tehran, the United States and Iran have a common long-term interest in stability in the Persian Gulf and South Asia regions. According to this view, major diplomatic overtures toward the regime might not only help resolve the nuclear issue but yield fruit in producing a new, constructive U.S.-Iran relationship.
Others argue that U.S. concerns stem first and foremost from the character of Iran's regime. Those who take this view see in the Green movement the potential to replace the regime and to integrate Iran into a pro-U.S. strategic architecture in the region. Many argue that a wholesale replacement of the current regime could produce major strategic benefits beyond potentially reducing the threat from Iran's nuclear program, including an end to Iran's effort to obstruct a broad Arab-Israeli peace.
Others argue that many Iranians are united on major national security issues and that a new regime would not necessarily align with the United States. Some believe that many Iranians fear that alignment with the United States would produce a degree of U.S. control and infuse Iran with Western culture that many Iranians find un-Islamic and objectionable.
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First non-cleric to be president of the Islamic republic since the assassination of then-president Mohammad Ali Rajai in August 1981. About 57, he asserts he is a "man of the people," the son of a blacksmith who lives in modest circumstances, who would promote the interests of the poor and return government to the original principles of the Islamic revolution. Has burnished that image as president through regular visits to poor areas and through subsidies directed at the lower classes. His official biography says he served with the "special forces" of the Revolutionary Guard, and he served subsequently (late 1980s) as a deputy provincial governor. Has been part of the "Usulrgaran" (Principalist) faction composed of former Guard and Basij (volunteer popular forces) leaders and other hardliners. U.S. intelligence reportedly determined he was not one of the holders of the 52 American hostages during November 1979-January 1981. Other accounts say Ahmadinejad believes his mission is to prepare for the return of the 12th Imam--Imam Mahdi--whose return from occultation would, according to Twelver Shiite doctrine, be accompanied by the establishment of Islam as the global religion. Earned clerical criticism in May 2008 for again invoking intervention by Imam Mahdi in present day state affairs.
Following limited recount, declared winner of June 12, 2009, election. Well earlier, had been a controversial figure for inflammatory statements. He attracted significant world criticism for an October 26, 2005, Tehran conference entitled "A World Without Zionism" by stating that "Israel should be wiped off the map." In an October 2006 address, Ahmadinejad said, "I have a connection with God." He insisted on holding a December 2006 conference in Tehran questioning the Holocaust, a theme he has returned to several times since, including at a September 2007 speech at Columbia University. A U.N. Security Council statement and Senate and House resolutions (H.Res. 523 and S.Res. 292), passed by their respective chambers, condemned the statement. On June 21, 2007, the House passed H.Con.Res. 21, calling on the U.N. Security Council to charge Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; the Convention includes "direct and public incitement" of genocide as a punishable offense. On March 6, 2010, Ahmadinejad called the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States a "big lie" used to justify intervention in Afghanistan. Was apparent target of an unsuccessful grenade attack on his motorcade in the city of Hamedan on August 4, 2010. Attending U.N. General Assembly in New York again during September 21 -24, 2010, and in advance of the trip called Iran a major world power, downplayed the effect of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran, and warned that any U.S. attack against Iran would embroil the United States in a war more expansive than World War II.
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(1) The Assembly also has the power to amend Iran's constitution and to remove a Supreme Leader. At the time of his elevation to Supreme Leader, Khamene'i was generally referred to at the rank of Hojjat ol-Islam, one rank below Ayatollah, suggesting his religious "elevation" was political rather than through traditional mechanisms.
(2) The Council of Guardians consists of six Islamic jurists and six secular lawyers. The six Islamic jurists are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The six lawyers on the Council are selected by the judiciary but confirmed by the Majles.
(3) Kampeas, Ron. "Iran's Crown Prince Plots Nonviolent Insurrection from Suburban Washington." Associated Press, August 26, 2002.
(4) Rafsanjani was constitutionally permitted to run because a third term would not have been consecutive with his previous two terms. In the 2001 presidential election, the Council permitted 10 out of the 814 registered candidates.
(5) A paper published by Chatham House and the University of St. Andrews strongly questions how Ahmadinejad's vote could have been as large as reported by official results, in light of past voting patterns throughout Iran. "Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran's 2009 Presidential Election." http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk.
(6) Takeyh, Ray. "A Green Squeeze on Iran" Washington Post, November 12, 2010.
(7) Other names by which this group is known is the Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) and the National Council of Resistance (NCR).
(8) The designation was made under the authority of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-132).
(9) A March 16, 2006 "National Security Strategy" document stated that the United States "may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran."
(10) See http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006/.
(11) For text, see http://media.washingtontimes.com/media/docs/2010/ Apr/20/Iran_Military_Report.pdf. The report is required by Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84).
(12) For a more extensive discussion of the IRGC, see Katzman, Kenneth. "The Warriors of Islam: Iran's Revolutionary Guard," Westview Press, 1993.
(13) For text of the May 31, 2010, IAEA report, see http://isis-online.org /uploads/isis-reports/documents/ IAEA_Report_Iran_31May2010.pdf.
(14) http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/ Iran_report-nov23.pdf.; http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/files/2011/02/gov2011-7.pdf
(15) The text of the report is at http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/ isis-reports/documents/Iran_report-nov23.pdf
(16) IAEA report of February 25, 2011. http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/ files/2011/02/gov2011-7.pdf
(17) Entous, Adam. "U.S. Officials See Iran Nuclear Bomb Probable in 3-5 Years." Reuters, April 13, 2010.
(18) For information on Stuxnet and its origins and effects, see Broad William, John Markoff and David Sanger. "Israeli Test on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay." New York Times, January 15, 2011.
(19) In November 2006, the IAEA, at U.S. urging, declined to provide technical assistance to the Arak facility on the grounds that it was likely for proliferation purposes.
(20) Lancaster, John and Kamran Khan. "Pakistanis Say Nuclear Scientists Aided Iran." Washington Post, January 24, 2004.
(21) For Iran's arguments about its program, see Iranian paid advertisement "An Unnecessary Crisis-Setting the Record Straight About Iran's Nuclear Program," in the New York Times, November 18, 2005. P. A11.
(22) Stern, Roger. "The Iranian Petroleum Crisis and United States National Security," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. December 26, 2006.
(23) For text of the agreement, see http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/ IaeaIran/eu_iran14112004.shtml. EU-3-Iran negotiations on a permanent nuclear pact began on December 13, 2004, and related talks on a trade and cooperation accord (TCA) began in January 2005.
(24) In November 2006, the IAEA, at U.S. urging, declined to provide technical assistance to the Arak facility.
(25) Voting in favor: United States, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Argentina, Belgium, Ghana, Ecuador, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovakia, Japan, Peru, Singapore, South Korea, India. Against: Venezuela. Abstaining: Pakistan, Algeria, Yemen, Brazil, China, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Vietnam.
(26) Voting no: Cuba, Syria, Venezuela. Abstaining: Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya, South Africa.
(27) See http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/290/88/PDF/ N0629088.pdf7OpenElement.
(28) One source purports to have obtained the contents of the package from ABC News: http://www.basicint.org/pubs/ Notes/BN060609.htm.
(29) Dempsey, Judy. "U.S. Urged to Talk With Iran." International Herald Tribune, February 5, 2009.
(30) CRS conversations with European diplomats in July 2009.
(31) "Cooperation for Peace, Justice, and Progress." Text of Iranian proposals: http://enduringamerica.com/2009/09/11/ irans-nukes-full-text-of-irans-proposal-to-51-powers/.
(32) Text of the pact is at http://www.cfr.org/publication/22140/.
(33) Mackenzie, Kate. "Oil At the Heart of Latest Iranian Sanctions Efforts." Financial Times, March 8, 2010.
(34) Text of the resolution is at http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/ isis-reports/documents/ Draft_resolution_on_Iran_annexes.pdf.
(35) The text of President Obama's statement is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ the-press-office/remarks-president- unitednations-security-council-resolution-iran-sanctions.
(36) Pomfret, John. "Chinese Firms Bypass Sanctions on Iran, U.S. Says." Washington Post, October 18, 2010.
(37) The sanctions issue, particularly U.S. sanctions, is discussed in far greater detail in CRS Report RS20871, Iran Sanctions, by Kenneth Katzman.
(38) Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, February 2, 2010.
(39) Broad, William and David Sanger. "Relying On Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran's Nuclear Aims." New York Times, November 13, 2005.
(40) Walsh, Elsa. "Annals of Politics: Louis Freeh's Last Case." The New Yorker, May 14, 2001. The June 21, 2001, federal grand jury indictments of 14 suspects (13 Saudis and a Lebanese citizen) in the Khobar bombing indicate that Iranian agents may have been involved, but no indictments of any Iranians were announced. In June 2002, Saudi Arabia reportedly sentenced some of the eleven Saudi suspects held there. The 9/11 Commission final report asserts that Al Qaeda might have had some as yet undetermined involvement in the Khobar Towers attacks.
(41) This issue is covered in greater depth in CRS Report RS22323, Iran-Iraq Relations, by Kenneth Katzman.
(42) CNN "Late Edition" interview with Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar, January 29, 2006.
(43) Slackman, Michael. "Egypt Accuses Hezbollah of Plotting Attacks in Sinai and Arms Smuggling to Gaza." New York Times, April 14, 2009
(44) Hamas Leader …