Event Summary: Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Against Iran
On May 2, 2019, the SETA Foundation at Washington D.C. hosted a discussion titled, “Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Against Iran.” Kılıç Kanat, Research Director at SETA DC was the moderator of this discussion. Panelists included Mike Doran, the Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, Barbara Slavin, Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at SETA DC, and Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at International Crisis Group.
Barbara Slavin provided a brief overview of the Trump administration’s policy on Iran. She stated that she failed to see the goal and end strategy of the maximum pressure campaign. She highlighted the difficulties of negotiating with Iran if the administration keeps threatening Iran. She argued that the current strategy is “cruel and counterproductive.” She believed that Iran will survive the sanctions, as it has survived for 40 years, even after the administration’s decision to end the oil import waivers.
Mike Doran described the current Iran strategy of the Trump administration as a containment strategy. Doran spoke about the current debate over maximum pressure campaign between the National Security team in the White House and the State Department. He stated that the latter prioritizes the relationship with allies of the U.S. Doran explained this debate in short by stating that the State Department aims to fix the Iran Nuclear deal, while the supporters of maximum pressure campaign want to nix this deal.
Kadir Ustun gave a brief history of how the Turkish government has approached the issue. Turkey always wants to have a nuclear deal with Iran. He recalled the early attempts when Turkey played a role as a mediator. He underlined that Turkey opposes the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran which Turkey believes would create instability in the region. However, he also reminded the audience that the Turkey is also better prepared this time around to comply by reducing imports from Iran and diversifying its energy sources in order to avoid the potential impact of U.S. sanctions.
Ali Vaez briefly talked about the history of the negotiations of the Iran Nuclear Deal. He highlighted that then-President Obama took the regime change off the table to be able to initiate negotiations with Iran. He underlined that the current attitude and rhetoric of the Trump administration prevent any leader of Iran from coming to the table. According to Vaez, under current conditions, Iran will not surrender. Vaez discussed the risks that the Iranian government might escalate the conflict by reinitiating the nuclear program in order to gain some leverage. In that case, the National Security team at the White House might escalate in return and we might be headed for increased tensions and risk conflict in the region.