May 23, 2019

Trump Needs an Iran Policy

“The sky hasn’t fallen. But tensions are mounting; Iran has not yet bolted from the agreement or resumed its nuclear enrichment, but reports suggest Tehran may well stop abiding by some provisions in the JCPOA, particularly on research on advanced centrifuges, as payback against US sanctions.

The two countries aren’t yet at war, though the Trump administration’s deployment of a carrier strike group this week, in an apparent reaction to intelligence on the movements of Iran-aligned groups (as administration officials told The New York Times), is a worrisome sign. But the administration achieved neither its publicly stated goal of forcing Tehran back to the nuclear negotiating table nor its unstated goal of regime collapse or change.

This state of affairs is likely to persist. Iran is hurting badly from US sanctions. And we should never rule out the possibility of an Iranian move to engage Washington, though the smart money is betting that Tehran will try to outlast this administration — though we can’t rule out that Iran could walk away from the nuclear accord, either. Right now, neither the United States nor Iran seems interested in serious negotiations. If we’re lucky, the two countries will avoid a serious military escalation, even though administration hawks appear to be itching for one. But diplomatically, both sides are on a road to nowhere. And here’s why.”

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