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The Strangling of Iran

Trump speaks at Washington rally against the Iran deal back in September 2015. Credit: Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA/Newscom

The head of the so-called Iran Action Group, Brian Hook, confirmed once again that the Trump administration isn’t interested in any diplomatic compromise with Iran:

A senior US official on Wednesday ruled out issuing waivers to Iran sanctions to permit a French-proposed credit line, which Tehran says could bring it back to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

“We can’t make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers,” Brian Hook, the State Department coordinator on Iran, told reporters.

The Trump administration occasionally feigns interest in diplomacy to distract from their destructive, failing Iran policy, but we should know by now that they have no interest in actually negotiating anything. The French government should be commended for making the effort to reduce tensions, but their proposal hinged on U.S. cooperation that was never going to be forthcoming. Macron’s attempt to bridge the divide between the U.S. and Iran at the G-7 summit and afterwards could not succeed because the people that actually decide on the substance of U.S. Iran policy, namely Bolton and Pompeo, were dead-set against any accommodation.

Supporters of “maximum pressure” cannot stand the idea of offering Iran incentives for cooperation, but then they don’t really want Iran’s cooperation anyway. They didn’t care about Iranian compliance with the JCPOA in the past, and they aren’t going to do things to bring Iran back into full compliance. “There are more sanctions coming,” Hook said, because the only thing Iran hawks know how to do is escalate and intensify pressure. The Trump administration seeks the destruction of the JCPOA and want to use economic warfare to strangle Iran into submission. Iranian compliance and cooperation are obstacles to those goals, and that is why they do all they can to try to drive Iran to abandon the agreement. The French government assumes that there is some way to persuade the U.S. to relent in its economic warfare, but our ally is continually disappointed because the administration wants to inflict as much damage as possible.

Iran hawks want the pressure campaign against Iran to continue indefinitely. They seek capitulation, not cooperation. An administration full of Iran hawks has no desire to negotiate with a government they hope to bring down. If we look at what the administration does as it piles sanctions on top of sanctions, we can see that they just want to strangle Iran. There is no point in pretending that the strangler will release his grip. We have to call out the strangulation for the cruel and destructive policy that it is, and we need to stop indulging the fantasy that Trump has anything but disdain for diplomacy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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