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Report to Congress in Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

The following is the May 8, 2019 Congressional Research Service report, Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies.

From the report

Iran’s national security policy is the product of many overlapping and sometimes
competing factors such as the ideology of Iran’s Islamic revolution, perception of threats
to the regime and to the country, long-standing national interests, and the interaction of
the Iranian regime’s factions and constituencies. Iran’s leadership:

  • Seeks to deter or thwart U.S. or other efforts to invade or intimidate Iran or to bring about a change of regime.
  • Has sought to take advantage of opportunities of regional conflicts to overturn a power structure in the Middle East that it asserts favors the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Muslim Arab regimes.
  • Seeks to enhance its international prestige and restore a sense of “greatness” reminiscent of ancient Persian empires.
  • Advances its foreign policy goals, in part by providing material support to regional allied governments and armed factions. Iranian officials characterize the support as helping the region’s “oppressed” and assert that Saudi Arabia, in particular, is instigating sectarian tensions and trying to exclude Iran from regional affairs.
  • Sometimes disagrees on tactics and strategies. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i and key hardline institutions, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), oppose any compromises of Iran’s national security core goals. Iran’s elected president, Hassan Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif support Iran’s integration into regional and international diplomacy.
  • Supports acts of international terrorism, as the “leading” or “most active” state sponsor of terrorism, according to each annual State Department report on international terrorism since the early 1990s.

The Administration insists that an end to Iran’s malign activities is a requirement of any revised JCPOA and
normalization of relations with the United States. The Trump Administration has articulated a strategy to counter
Iran’s “malign activities” based on:

  • Applying “maximum pressure” on Iran’s economy and regime through sanctions. President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, and reimposed all U.S. sanctions as of November 5, 2018.
  • Attempting to diplomatically, politically, and economically isolate Iran.
  • Training, arming, and providing counterterrorism assistance to partner governments and some allied substate actors in the region.
  • Deploying U.S. forces to deter Iran and interdict its arms shipments to its allies and proxies.
  • Indirectly threatening military action against Iranian actions that pose an immediate threat to U.S. regional interests or allies.

Download the document here.