September 9, 2019


Iran's latest move confirms failure of Trump's 'maximum pressure' strategy (Connor Dilleen, 9/09/19, The Strategist)

Sanctions have clearly failed to stir up unrest in Iran. Protest activity has actually decreased from an average of 800 protest events per month in 2018 to fewer than 300 per month in the first half of 2019. Ironically, the drop has been attributed in part to the increasing likelihood of a military confrontation between Iran and the US, which has contributed to 'internal cohesion among a public that frequently shows a readiness to rally behind the regime against threats of military attack or challenges to Iran's territorial integrity'.

The sanctions have also failed to curb Tehran's support for regional terrorist groups and have had little impact on the ability of Tehran's proxies to operate in Syria and elsewhere. Likewise, there are indications that Hezbollah is not as reliant on Iranian funding as previously believed. And despite the clear economic impact of the sanctions, Tehran has recently increased its funding of Hamas from an estimated US$70 million per year to US$30 million per month.

In a further blow to the already questionable utility of US sanctions as a lever for change, China and Iran have recently formalised the details of Belt and Road Initiative projects that will see China invest up to US$280 billion in developing Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors, with further investment in transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. This investment will effectively provide Iran with an economic lifeline. Intriguingly, the partnership also includes provisions for up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel to be based in Iran to 'protect Chinese projects', dramatically raising the stakes of any future military strikes against Iranian facilities.

And herein lies the destructive irony of Washington's failing Iran strategy--it has effectively killed off the JCPOA (which remains the most effective available mechanism for ensuring that Tehran's nuclear activities are transparent and accountable), while simultaneously failing to force Iran to either go back to the negotiating table or cease its support for its proxies across the Middle East.

Posted by at September 9, 2019 12:00 AM