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Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the United States and Iran have been at odds politically and diplomatically, and U.S. policy has been intended to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. U.S. officials also express a broad range of concerns about Irans human rights abuses, including its detentions of U.S.-Iran dual nationals. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. officials identified Irans support for militant Middle East groups as the primary threat posed by Iran to U.S. interests and allies. Irans nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon increased. Beginning in 2010, the United States orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to strict limits on the program - pressure that contributed to the June 2013 election of the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran. His government subsequently negotiated a November 2013 interim nuclear agreement and then the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA, which was finalized on July 14, 2015. The JCPOA, which began formal implementation on January 16, 2016, exchanged broad sanctions relief for nuclear program limits intended to give the international community confidence that Iran would require at least a year to produce a nuclear weapon if it decided to do so. President Obama asserted that the implementation of the JCPOA presents an opportunity to reduce the long-standing U.S.-Iran enmity and construct a new relationship. However, Iran has continued to test ballistic missiles maintained support for regional movements and factions such as Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Houthi rebels in Yemen arrested additional U.S.-Iran dual nationals and conducted high speed intercepts of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science

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