Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

U.S.-Iranian Relations:: An Analytic Compendium of U.S. Policies, Laws, and Regulations

Kenneth Katzman
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2011
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 184
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. i-ii)
    Frederick Kempe

    Adversarial relationships, such as those between the United States and Iran, are always subject to sudden change. In cases where this has occurred, adjusting to that change has always been more complicated than anticipated. In the case of the United States and Iran, we must factor in the additional complication of three decades of estrangement that began with the November 4, 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and a subsequent break in official relations that continues today. Increasingly frequent official contact concerning Iran’s nuclear program and its influence in Iraq and Afghanistan only increases the urgency of considering...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    This Compendium contains the text of major regulations, laws, and other documents governing U.S. interactions with Iran. Also provided are the text of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, agreements between Iran and several other countries on various issues, and other documents that represent major policy decisions in U.S. relations with Iran.

    As shown in the Compendium, changes in U.S. sanctions over time appear to reflect the lack of a clear consensus on how to curb the strategic threat Iran is widely considered to pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East, as well as responses to changes in Iran’s elected governments....

  3. (pp. 3-12)

    This chapter contains major policy statements and documents on Iran primarily from the current and previous U.S. Administrations. The statements and documents presented here are intended to be illustrative of themes in U.S. policy toward Iran. Statements on specific aspects of U.S. policy toward Iran, such as U.S. interpretations of Iran’s disputed June 12, 2009 presidential election, Iran’s positions on multilateral meetings on its nuclear program, its holding of dual U.S.-Iranian nationals periodically, are a frequent feature of daily State Department and White House press briefings on U.S. foreign policy.

    This statement was widely viewed as the first specific example...

  4. (pp. 13-44)

    The sanctions in this section are among the most significant in their application to Iran, closing Iran off from a wide range of U.S. programs and economic relationships with the United States, including U.S foreign assistance and sales to Iran of technology that could have military applications. Were Iran to be removed from the terrorism list, for example, many of the sanctions in this section – and in subsequent sections of this Compendium -- would be rendered inapplicable. As such, this section on terrorism-related sanctions should be read in conjunction with subsequent sections on foreign assistance and proliferation sanctions.


  5. (pp. 45-72)

    Since 2006, Iran has been under international sanctions for failing to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions that require it, primarily but not exclusively, to suspend its enrichment of uranium. The question of whether to impose further such sanctions has been under debate between the United States and its international partners since 2008.

    The process of imposing Security Council sanctions came after a 2006 “referral” of the issue to the Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is the U.N.-backed agency that is charged with monitoring Iran’s adherence to its Safeguards Agreement as a party to the Nuclear...

  6. (pp. 73-90)

    This section presents Executive Orders, designations under those Orders, and laws that relate to preventing the sale to Iran of WMD-related and advanced conventional weapons technology. Many of the documents in this section, such as the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act, predate the emergence of Iran’s nuclear program as a major multilateral issue and represent longstanding U.S. efforts to contain Iran’s strategic power. Iran’s nuclear program did not emerge as a major international issue until late 2002, when Iran confirmed the existence of a facility at Natanz to enrich uranium – a key step required to produce a nuclear weapon, if...

  7. (pp. 91-126)

    Since 1995, there has been a comprehensive ban on U.S. trade with and investment in Iran. As such, U.S. companies are, in general, banned from conducting business in Iran or selling goods to Iran. However, the ban is implemented in regulations applied to an export licensing procedure. As such, any company can apply to the Treasury Department for a license to export a good or item to Iran, but the trade ban establishes a presumption of denial for such licenses for most types of goods. Exceptions are noted as appropriate in this section.

    In addition, there are so-called “secondary sanctions”...

  8. (pp. 127-130)

    This determination, issued by the Department of the Treasury on November 6, 2008, revokes the “U-turn license” from Iranian banks. The determination also explains what “U-turn” financial transactions are, how they worked, and revokes the authority to continue processing these transactions. The move essentially shuts the entire Iranian financial system off from the U.S. financial system.

    Washington, DC--The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that it is revoking the “U-turn” license for Iran, further restricting Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system.

    Treasury’s move today follows a series of U.S. government actions to expose Iranian banks’ involvement in the...

  9. (pp. 131-136)

    The United States is barred from providing foreign assistance to Iran because of Iran’s presence on the list of state sponsors of international terrorism. The terrorism list designation triggers a provision (Section 2371) of the Foreign Assistance Act that bans aid to such countries.

    However, some laws ban aid to Iran by naming it specifically as prohibited from receiving such aid, and not necessarily because it is on the terrorism list. In the latter case, no waiver is provided for. These laws are overlapping and mutually reinforcing, and all applicable laws would have to be repealed or altered before Iran...

  10. (pp. 137-148)

    This section of the Compendium presents laws and regulations that both permit or impede U.S.-Iran diplomatic and people-to-people interactions between the United States and Iran. In general, however, the Executive branch has wide latitude under the Constitution to conduct diplomatic relations with other countries.

    This section also discusses regulations pertaining to the disposition of disputed and frozen Iranian assets. The issue of frozen Iranian assets dates back to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in February 1979, and particularly the November 4, 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by radical students loyal to the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah...

  11. (pp. 149-166)

    The laws in this section address the U.S. policy begun during the Bush Administration of promoting democratic reform in Iran, including expanding people-to-people exchanges that are perceived as creating a core of Iranians with experience in and presumably goodwill toward the United States. These programs also have been used to build expertise among civil society activists in Iran. The funding of these programs are openly acknowledged and are funded through regularly appropriated U.S. foreign assistance channels. However, the recipients of such funding are not disclosed, in order to protect their identity from the Iranian government.

    Even though U.S. officials have...

  12. (pp. 167-174)

    As discussed throughout this Compendium, Iran is subject to a highly strict U.S. sanctions regime – perhaps stricter than that on other country in the world. Should there be a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Iran, these sanctions and other restrictions would need to be removed in order to promote normal U.S.-Iran commerce, facilitate U.S. and foreign investment in Iran, to permit U.S. foreign assistance to Iran, and to permit U.S. support for unrestricted international lending to Iran. Many of the sanctions in place are overlapping and mutually reinforcing, meaning that a particular restriction might still remain in place...