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Analyst: Trump’s Anti-Iran Push Unlikely to Achieve Goals

Analyst: Trump’s Anti-Iran Push Unlikely to Achieve Goals  Analyst: Trump’s Anti-Iran Push Unlikely to Achieve Goals

A foreign policy expert believes the upcoming US sanctions are unlikely to bring Washington closer to achieving its anti-Iran goals, citing a range of arguments from the dynamics of energy markets and the global opposition to US unilateral policies to the current trajectory of regional developments that run counter to US objectives.   
The next round of economic sanctions on Iran, which will take effect on Nov. 4, will mainly target the country’s oil and gas industries. These sanctions were eased after the 2015 signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, but are being phased back after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord six months ago.
Hossein Mousavian, a former diplomat, said Trump’s goal in reinstating the sanctions is to kill the nuclear deal, to bring Iran’s economy to the point of collapse, to curtail Iran’s regional involvement in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and, regardless of Washington’s denials, to trigger the fall of Iran’s ruling system. 
The White House’s official position is that by increasing economic and political pressure, it aims to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to replace JCPOA with a new comprehensive treaty that would cover Iran’s regional role and its missile development in addition to its nuclear activities.

 

Reasons 

In a recent commentary published by Reuters, Mousavian enumerates five reasons why Trump’s strategy will fail:
First, while the United States seeks to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, it has become clear that this is impractical; there is no viable replacement for Iran’s 2.5 million barrels per day in oil exports. While Saudi Arabia previously claimed it had made up for any shortages, experts believe that Riyadh and its allies do not have the capacity to fully offset the loss of Iranian oil. Now that Iran’s oil exports have dropped to an estimated 1.5 million bpd–down from more than 2.5 million before the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May–the price of OPEC reference basket has gone up to around $76. If forecasts indicating that it could jump to $100 per barrel are correct, the price hike will make up for Iran’s loss of revenue even if Tehran’s exports are cut further to 1 million barrels.
Second, Trump’s trade war with China and the US imposition of economic sanctions against Russia make Beijing and Moscow less likely to work with Washington on Iran. 
The White House cannot count on cooperation from the European Union, which sees JCPOA as one of its signature foreign policy achievements. Moreover, the EU increasingly views extraterritorial sanctions as a threat to its own identity and independence. 
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said recently that the “outcome of that crisis with Iran will be the chance for Europe to have its own independent financial institutions, so we can trade with whoever we want”. In the past, cooperation with all major powers was critical to creating an effective Iran policy.
Third, US sanctions have laid the groundwork for a historic change in the global financial system. For many decades, the US dollar has dominated the international financial markets. However, the American withdrawal from JCPOA has encouraged Russia, China, India and Turkey to use their local currencies to trade with Iran. If Europe succeeds in creating a financial system that is separate from the US dollar, other states can use euros in trade with Iran and diminish the US domination of global monetary markets.
Fourth, the remaining signatories to JCPOA view the nuclear deal as a means to counter American unilateralism. This is because JCPOA is a multilateral agreement backed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Trump administration exited unilaterally and is now trying to punish other nations for implementing. Any capitulation to Washington on this issue would further prop up the current US approach. To avoid this, both Iran and the international community consider the preservation of JCPOA as a strategic necessity.
Fifth, powerful US allies such as the EU and Japan continue to support JCPOA. Only a handful of regional allies, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel, supported Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal while other major regional players such as Turkey, Oman and Iraq continue to support the accord. 
At the same time, other regional developments do not favor the United States and its allies: President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, is winning Syria’s civil war; the US campaign in Afghanistan has failed; Saudi Arabia has been unable to defeat the Tehran-backed Houthis in Yemen and Qatar has prevailed against the Saudi-led blockade. 
These developments will make it easier for Tehran to find workarounds to sanctions imposed by Washington.

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