Stories by Barbara Slavin

Expert Voices

U.S. sanctions on Iran are becoming an end, not a means

Mohammad Zarif seated at a conference table
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's decision to put Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s mellifluous foreign minister, on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list makes clear that the means of pressure and sanctions have increasingly become the end goal of the U.S.' Iran policy.

The big picture: When President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last May, he insisted he could negotiate a much better agreement. More than a year later, however, the U.S. is no closer to such talks, dangers across the Middle East have escalated and the man who would have led Iran's negotiations has been sidelined — at least from the Trump administration's point of view.

Expert Voices

Without new talks, U.S.–Iran tensions continue to escalate

spokesman for Iran's atomic energy agency in front of microphones at a press conference
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, at a press conference in July 2018. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

With its announcement Monday that it will exceed limits on the amount of low-enriched uranium allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is signaling the death of the landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers in 2015.

Why it matters: Even if initial infringements are modest, the combination of rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, a near-total U.S. embargo on Iranian energy exports and Europe’s failure to operationalize a reliable means of trading with Iran is increasingly unstable.

Expert Voices

How Trump’s push to end Iran oil exports could backfire

Mike Pompeo at a lectern during State Department press conference
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department press conference on April 22. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration Monday dramatically escalated its campaign of economic warfare against Iran, announcing that it would not renew any waivers for countries to import Iranian oil after May 2.

The big picture: Per Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the goal is for Iran to reverse its foreign and domestic policies and accede to 12 demands he set out in a speech last year. But the plan is certain to face pushback from importers of Iranian oil, raise prices for consumers and further erode the value of sanctions as a tool of diplomacy.