This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
As U.S. President Donald Trump’s time in office comes to a close, his outgoing administration intends to put further pressure on Iran by introducing new punitive sanctions against the U.S. adversary.
On November 25, the top U.S. envoy on Iran, Elliott Abrams, announced that Trump’s sanctions strategy would continue “for another couple of months, right until the end” of his presidency with the introduction of new punitive measures related to arms, weapons of mass destruction, and human rights.
Upon taking office, Trump was highly critical of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that was worked out under the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
In 2018 the United States abandoned the agreement under which Tehran curtailed its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
While Trump tightened the screws on Tehran by introducing new punitive sanctions, and Iran responded by announcing it was no longer required to abide by the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment, European signatories to the deal along with China and Russia have struggled to maintain the arrangement.
President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office in January, has said he intends to return the United States to the deal if Iran resumes compliance.
During a virtual event held by the Berlin Institute, Abrams praised Biden’s foreign-policy nominees and said he believed the new administration “has a great opportunity” to negotiate a new deal with Tehran that addresses missile and regional threats from Iran.
But Abrams also warned Biden not to repeat what he considers mistakes made by Obama’s team and advised the incoming president to take advantage of the leverage he believes has been gained.
“If we discard the leverage we have, it would really be tragic and foolish. But if we use it there is a chance I think for constructive agreement that addresses all of these problems,” Abrams said.
Iran’s clerical rulers have said there will be no negotiations over Iran’s missile program or changes to its regional policy.
But during a televised cabinet meeting on November 25, Iranian President Hassan Rohani expressed openness to returning to the original deal he helped make happen.
While saying that “the new U.S. government will have to compensate for the bad policies that were enacted over the last four years by the [outgoing] administration,” Rohani stated that “Iran and the United States can agree and declare that both sides are willing to return to the terms and conditions” in place when Trump took office on January 20, 2017.