Foreign policy experts suspect the Iranian regime is insulated from the crippling economic effects of sanctions, including the recent collapse of Iran's currency, the rial.
"Tehran likely has sufficient foreign exchange reserves to last well beyond the date that Iran will become a threshold nuclear power, which according to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is in the spring or summer of 2013," Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told the Free Beacon, citing studies performed by FDD.
"Even when facing imminent economic collapse, that meltdown would need to occur at least six months—and preferably much longer—before Iran reaches the nuclear threshold," Dubowitz explained. "That would possibly allow time for the economic shock to cascade through the political system with the hope of convincing Iran's leadership to change course. But that's still a big assumption that economic collapse could break the supreme leader's nuclear will."
It also remains unclear if economic sanctions have directly set back Iran's nuclear program in a significant way, according to CRS.
"A related issue is whether the cumulative sanctions have directly set back Iran's nuclear efforts by making it difficult for Iran to import needed materials or skills," the report notes.
Iran continues to increase its influence in the Middle East despite the sanctions regime, the report states.
"Sanctions against Iran have not, to date, clearly reduced Iran's influence in the Middle East or its strategic capabilities in the Persian Gulf region," the report notes. "Iran continues to financially and militarily support militant movements in the Middle East, including the exportation of arms to some of these movements, and to Syria."
In addition to shipping arms to rogue regimes and terrorist groups, Iran is stockpiling ballistic missiles and domestically produced drones, some of which are capable of launching attacks on U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf.
Even the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated.
"U.S. and international sanctions have not, to date, had a measurable effect on human rights practices in Iran," the report states.
Some insiders argue that the Obama administration must alter its goal of pushing Iran to the bargaining table. They maintain that regime change is the only solution.
"It doesn't take a CRS report to tell us what we already know—Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities despite current sanctions," said one Iran sanctions expert on Capitol Hill who requested anonymity. "It's time to accept the basic truth that the objective of sanctions moving forward should be regime change from inside Iran, and that is an achievable objective."