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U.S. policy toward Iran hardened further in Poland this week, as U.S. officials demanded that Europe abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and suggested that Iranians rise up and overthrow their government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice President Mike Pence at the Warsaw conference on the Middle East on Feb. 14. Photo: Xinhua/Jaap Arriens via Getty Images

The big picture: To Washington's frustration, both Iran and the rest of the world have stuck with the deal nearly a year after the Trump administration withdrew unilaterally. Even as its oil exports have more than halved since the U.S. restored sanctions in November, Iran has remained compliant with the deal's restrictions on its nuclear program.

Background: When it withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, the Trump administration said the intention was to bring the Islamic Republic back to the negotiation table. U.S. officials said they sought a more comprehensive agreement that would cover Iran's regional interventions, ballistic missile program and imprisonment of dual nationals.

  • But the underlying motivation appeared to be a hope that Iran would also quit the JCPOA, making it easier to convince the rest of the world to abandon it.

What's new: European countries, far from quitting, have come up with a payment mechanism intended to facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran at a time when Western banks are too terrified of U.S. sanctions to attempt even authorized business with Tehran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Warsaw conference was intended to create a coalition for "war" against Iran — a comment that was later softened to "confrontation."

  • Yes, but: This pressure does not have broad international support. Although Israel and Iran's Arab rivals attended the gathering, Russia, China, Turkey and most European foreign ministers declined.

Where it stands: Iran is facing a bleak immediate future, with its economy expected to shrink 6% in 2019, on the back of falling oil exports, high inflation and unemployment. Even still, Iranians are not raring for another revolution, as Secretary Mike Pompeo has continued to suggest. They keenly recall how the last one turned out, and how chaotic a process regime change has been for their neighbors Afghanistan and Iraq.

The bottom line: Current U.S. policy will neither bring Iran back to the negotiating table nor kill the JCPOA.

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

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

5 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."