According to recent figures released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Islamic Republic’s “gross official reserves” fell by more than 95 percent between 2018 and 2020. The reason for this collapse, writes Elliott Abrams, is the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and ratchet up economic sanctions. Yet the Biden administration now seems ready to reverse course before demanding concessions from Tehran:
One of the key defenses of the Biden administration’s strategy toward Iran is that the Trump administration approach, called “maximum pressure,” failed.
Instead, the Biden administration’s approach is to give Iran sanctions relief and an injection of tens of billions of dollars if it agrees to go back to the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA. Acknowledging that the JCPOA is inadequate, the Biden administration says we need a “longer, stronger, and broader” agreement that lasts longer and covers Iran’s missile program and its support for terrorism. But by lifting most sanctions and allowing Iran access to all that cash, this policy would largely eliminate Iran’s incentives to negotiate a new deal.
Whenever we hear that “the maximum-pressure campaign failed,” we ought to recall that IMF statistic: Iran’s reserves almost disappeared between 2018 and 2020. The Biden policy, which suggests that Iran will concede more while the pressure on it is reduced, is simply illogical. As the old saying goes, hope is not a strategy.