Trump repeated one of his stranger delusions about Iran earlier today:
As most of you know, we ended the Iran deal, which was one of the worst deals anyone could imagine, and that’s had a major impact on Iran and it’s substantially weakened Iran and we hope that at some point Iran will call us and we’ll maybe make a new deal or we maybe won’t.
But Iran is not the same country that it was five months ago, that I can tell you. They’re no longer looking so much to the Mediterranean and the entire Middle East.
Except for the statement that he reneged on the nuclear deal, none of this is true. Iran is very much the same country that it was five months ago, and its government has not changed its foreign policy in the slightest. Reneging on the deal and resuming sanctions have had an impact in that it has driven Rouhani and the IRGC closer together, but this has just made the regime more unified and determined to resist U.S. efforts to destabilize it. This is another case of Trump declaring victory when nothing has changed. It is a weak attempt to spin the terrible decision to renege on the JCPOA as something other than massive blunder.
As much as Trump would like to think that he “ended” the deal, all of the other parties are working to keep it alive. Our European allies are going out of their way to create a mechanism that will allow Iran to circumvent the sanctions that the Trump administration wants to use to strangle them:
The French, British and German governments have told Iran they are exploring activating accounts for the Iranian central bank with their national central banks in a bid to open a financial channel to keep alive the Iranian nuclear deal, according to several European officials.
The move is the first concrete sign that Europe could deliver on its promise to take steps to sustain the Iranian nuclear deal, setting European governments squarely against the Trump administration’s Iran sanctions policy aimed at isolating Tehran economically.
The Trump administration’s plan to strangle Iran’s economy by pressuring other countries to stop importing Iranian oil is also running up against Chinese resistance:
But China, already the largest buyer of Iranian oil, is gearing up to take more, said the senior official. Tehran is currently in negotiations with Chinese companies to ensure that, according to an Iranian oil official involved in those talks.
Trump and his advisers may have imagined that they could railroad other governments into supporting economic warfare against Iran, but so far it isn’t working. The U.S. can’t bring back the level of international pressure on Iran that existed before the JCPOA was negotiated, and the other parties to the agreement have an incentive to keep it going in spite of U.S. withdrawal. On top of all that, Iran’s leaders have no incentive to yield to U.S. pressure in any case. The administration’s demands are an attack on their national pride and their self-respect, and as a result they aren’t going to give Trump what he wants. Hooman Majd explains why:
Whenever Iran senses disrespect, it doubles down on precisely the behavior others object to. This time will be no different. Only now the government will likely have the backing of its people, who have yet to see barely any of the economic benefits the JCPOA was supposed to deliver.
Since the Trump administration has shown Iran and the Iranian people nothing but contempt since the president took office, there is no chance that Iran’s government will be entering into talks with them about anything. Iran isn’t going to change in the ways that Trump wants, and the more that he demands those changes the less likely they are to happen.