How is Trump’s Iran policy supposed to work?
First, it’s not clear that five powers (China, Japan, India, South Korea and Turkey) that are the intended targets of the pressure campaign will all comply. “The Iranian economy is already reeling from sanctions that have also led to a shortage in critical medicine, and Iranian-backed militias have been forced to tighten their payrolls,” the New York Times reported. “By retracting its oil exemptions, the Trump administration is encroaching on China’s energy security even as Washington is trying to strike an all-important trade deal with Beijing. The United States also needs China’s help in controlling North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.”
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky argue that the United States will not be able to drive Iranian oil exports to zero:
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are unlikely to sustain higher production levels for very long, out of concern for stability in oil markets. Iran’s “heavy oil,” which many countries need for refined oil products, cannot be replaced by Saudi light crude. Turkey, China, India and possibly some European allies will find ways to work around U.S. sanctions for both economic and geopolitical reasons. And Iran can reduce oil supplies leaving the Persian Gulf. It has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and could conduct cyber operations against oil infrastructure on the other side of the Gulf.
Moreover, if sanctions pressure does increase, it’s not at all clear that Iran is going to return to the bargaining table to redo the deal, and even less clear that it will give President Trump a better deal than it got with President Barack Obama. Iran, after all, has been muddling along under the cloud of sanctions on and off for decades. Having divided the United States from its negotiating partners (or rather watched as Trump divided the alliance) and seen Trump abandon anti-Assad allies in Syria, it reasonably or not sees less reason to capitulate.
Read More at The Washington Post
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