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The Maximum Pressure Campaign Against Iran Is Working

The BriefGet Up To Speed

The targeted killing of General Qassim Suleimani, one of Iran’s most prominent military leaders, sent shockwaves around the world. The strike came more than a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA and launched a series of punishing economic sanctions that have drastically reduced Iran's oil exports and crippled its economy. The administration’s defenders argue that this "maximum pressure" campaign is necessary to protect American interests, quell Tehran’s human rights abuses, and halt Iran's support of terrorist networks across the region. But opponents see maximum pressure as dangerously misguided. They contend that abandoning the JCPOA – a historic diplomatic achievement – increases the risk of war and undermines key allies. Further, critics say, economic sanctions target civilians and fuel anti-American sentiment in Iran and beyond. Is the maximum pressure campaign against Iran working? 


"Iran and the U.S. have been enemies since 1979. Why?"

Sunday, January 19, 2020
The Week Staff

"U.S. sanctions have hurt the Iranian economy, but the operative question is to what end"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
James M Lindsay
"An expert explains Iran’s recent actions."
Friday, June 21, 2019
Alex Ward
"After Soleimani strike, war powers resolution would seek to limit Trump from escalating military conflicts with Iran."
Thursday, February 13, 2020
William Roberts
For the Motion

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers his first public address on the Trump administration’s Iran strategy." 

Monday, May 21, 2018
Mike Pompeo

"We look forward to the day we can help bring the Iranians and their neighbors the peace and prosperity they deserve."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Michael Pompeo
"The theocracy’s most important vulnerability is still its weakening economy, and it is that nerve that Washington should continue pinching. Given this latest Iranian act of terror, the Trump administration may have stumbled on a unique opportunity to multi-lateralize its strategy of maximum pressure."
Monday, September 16, 2019
Ray Takeyh
"Secs. Mike Pompeo and Steve Mnuchin stood by the Trump administration’s strategy and outlined new sanctions."
Sunday, September 22, 2019
Anya van Wagtendonk
Against the Motion
"History tells us that Iran will not be sanctioned into changing its behavior. A successful policy of leverage comes from collective international pressure, the prospect that negotiations can offer credible economic gains and the threat of meaningful consequences for malign actions."
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Dennis Ross and Dana Stroul

"A hardline approach from Washington has been met with an equally hardline approach from a Tehran desperate to show it will not be bullied into submission. Escalation is met with escalation. Maximum pressure on Iran is driving us toward war, not toward a mutually agreeable diplomatic deal and certainly not toward peace."

Monday, December 9, 2019
Bonnie Kristian
"Pulling out of the nuclear deal has emboldened Tehran and exposed Saudi Arabia."
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
David Gardner
“This regime is the worst, but Donald Trump is the worst.”
Thursday, January 9, 2020
Jen Kirby
General Suleimani Strike
"The White House has kept a close hold on many details of what led up to the decision to kill Soleimani. Here's what is known from public accounts."
Saturday, January 4, 2020
Elena Moore and Roberta Rampton
"Iran said it would essentially abandon its obligations under a land mark nuclear deal, and the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel American troops."
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
New York Times
"Why Trump’s decision to target the Iranian military commander was the right call, explained by an expert."
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Alex Ward
"Why Trump’s decision to target the Iranian military commander was a mistake, explained by an expert."
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Sean Illing

"A new poll shows Americans are more likely than not to support President Donald Trump’s decision to order a drone strike that killed an Iranian general, even amid widespread skepticism about his foreign policy overall."

Friday, January 24, 2020
Ben Fox and Emily Swanson

"Families across half the world are now grieving a consequence that Trump’s ego forbade him to imagine or ponder."

Thursday, January 9, 2020
David Frum
Economic Sanctions

"Though immediate tensions stem from the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 -- and Iran's subsequent retaliation -- the conflict goes back decades."

Thursday, February 6, 2020
Bradford Betz
"Mr Trump says he wants to apply "maximum pressure" on the government in Tehran to compel it to renegotiate the accord. But Iran's leaders have remained defiant. The substantial impact the sanctions have had on the country is clear, and the economic hardship Iranians are facing helped trigger widespread protests in November 2019 that were brutally quashed by the authorities."
Monday, December 9, 2019
"The United States imposed more sanctions on Iran on Friday in retaliation for its missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq last week and vowed to tighten the economic screws if Tehran continued “terrorist” acts or pursued a nuclear bomb. The targets of the sanctions included Iran’s manufacturing, mining and textile sectors as well as senior Iranian officials who Washington said were involved in the Jan. 8 attack on military bases housing U.S. troops."
Thursday, January 16, 2020
"Economic measures can de-escalate tensions, but not if used crudely."
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Elizabeth Rosenberg and Neil Bhatiya
"President Trump’s vow Wednesday to slap new sanctions on Iran probably would target a broader range of Iranian commercial institutions and government officials, deepening the Middle Eastern nation’s spiraling economic crisis. But with the economy already convulsed by earlier U.S. enforcement actions, any new financial punishments are likely to be largely symbolic, according to sanctions specialists and experts on Iran."
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
David J Lynch
"The Trump administration has placed layers of tough sanctions on Iran for years, but it has yet to bring the economy to its knees. That's because Iran has a big economy that's used to hard times."
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Jackie Northam

"U.S. sanctions on Iran have carried a significant cost to the U.S. economy, a new report published by the National Iranian American Council today finds. Losing Billions – The Cost of Iran Sanctions to the U.S. Economy reveals that between 1995 and 2012, the U.S. sacrificed at least $135 billion and as much as $175 billion in potential export revenue to Iran."

Monday, July 14, 2014
"A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries. If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations."
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
John Hudson and Souad Mekhennet
"The Iran deal was one of the crowning diplomatic achievement’s of former President Barack Obama’s tenure, but has continued to be a divisive issue in Washington since it came to fruition in 2015.
Withdrawing the US from the deal was one of the biggest and most controversial foreign policy decisions Trump has made yet."
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
John Haltiwanger

"The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Donald Trump
"EU nations prompt a mechanism bringing closer the potential collapse of the deal and the reimposition of UN sanctions."
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Al Jazeera
Domestic Unrest in Iran

"U.S. President Donald Trump has said that his campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran isn’t aimed at precipitating regime change there. That hasn’t stopped him and his aides from telegraphing their hopes for it."

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Golnar Motevalli
"After downing of Ukrainian jetliner, establishment strives to restore unity amid awareness that differences could jeopardize regime."
Monday, January 27, 2020
Sune Engel Rasmussen

"Iran is a society deeply polarized between those who hate the regime and those still loyal to its rigid revolutionary ideology." 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Robin Wright
"What started as a protest over a surprise increase in gasoline prices turned into widespread demonstrations met with a systematic repression that left at least 180 people dead."
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Farnaz Fassihi and Rick Gladstone
Iranian Funding of Terror

The U.S. drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the paramilitary Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), highlighted the centrality of support for terrorist, insurgent and other substate groups in Iran’s foreign policy. The Quds Force helps arm, train and otherwise support numerous insurgent and rebel groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and other areas, and its activities are part of why the United States has long labeled Iran the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.”

Monday, January 6, 2020
Daniel L Byman

On Iran, the report said that country "remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015, providing a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world."

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Ryan Browne

"The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies."

Monday, April 8, 2019
Donald Trump
"Iran has not posed a serious terror threat to the United States since the 1980s. Sunni terrorism, on the other hand, has."
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Jefferson Morley