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Trump’s Iran Policy Has Already Failed

President Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com, European External Action Service/Flickr

Reimposed sanctions on Iran are cruel and unnecessary, and they are also ineffective:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday said US sanctions will have no impact on the policies of the Islamic republic at home or abroad.

“It is obvious that we are facing pressure by the US sanctions. But will that lead to a change in policy? I can assure you it won’t,” Zarif told the Doha Forum policy conference in Qatar.

“If there is an art we have perfected in Iran and can teach to others for a price, it is the art of evading sanctions,” he added.

Sanctions typically fail to change regime behavior, and they are even more likely to fail if there is no practical way for the targeted regime to get out from under sanctions short of surrender. The more importance that a regime places on the policies that the outside government wants to change, the greater the likelihood of failure will be. When the outside government’s goals threaten the regime’s security or even its very survival, there is no question of making a deal.

Because the Trump administration is pursuing regime change in all but name, there is no chance that Iran will yield to U.S. pressure. The administration’s demands are so ambitious and excessive that no self-respecting state could agree to them without giving up its sovereignty and independence. It should be clear by now that pressure and coercion inspire defiance and intransigence. If the U.S. wants to see changes in Iranian international behavior, it would need to provide assurances and incentives that make taking that risk worth their while. Since this administration has made a point of reneging on commitments already made to Iran, there are no assurances that it could make that the Iranian government could trust, and the administration is allergic to offering any incentives to its negotiating partners for fear of appearing “weak.”

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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