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Secretary of State Pompeo speaks about the Iran deal at the Heritage Foundation May 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

Since taking office, the Trump administration has been challenging Iran to break the terms of the nuclear deal by denying its full economic benefits and casting uncertainty over the reimposition of sanctions. Now that the U.S. has withdrawn unilaterally, Washington still appears to be counting on Iran's eventual withdrawal to apply a policy of maximum pressure on Tehran.

The big picture: Conversations with individuals familiar with administration thinking suggest that there's no real strategy for renegotiating the deal. Secretary of State Pompeo’s recent “Plan B” was a political mission impossible that Iran — absent radical regime change — could never accept. And so far, the maximum pressure strategy has met with resentment from the United States' European and Asian allies.

It's telling that no Trump administration official has been named to lead the alleged renegotiation effort, as Wendy Sherman did under Obama. Talk of building a new coalition against Iran beyond Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE remains just talk.

What's next: With the U.S. focused on the possible June North Korea summit, Iran is decidedly on the back burner. The Trump administration has yet to fully specify how it will reimpose sanctions. Countries that import Iranian oil are unsure to what extent they will need to reduce purchases, especially in a tight market with rising prices. Interestingly, their deadline to trim imports by a “significant amount” is November 12, a week after the U.S. midterm elections could overturn GOP congressional control.

The bottom line: Iran, which has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal following U.S. action, should stick with the deal at least until November. Then it will be better able to gauge the Trump administration's power and the international community's willingness to continue to buy Iranian oil.

Barbara Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

2 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.

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