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Trump’s Failed Iran Policy

US President Donald Trump’s approach to bringing Iran’s Islamic regime to heel clearly is not working. If anything, it has created another Middle East flashpoint, undermined transatlantic relations, benefited Russia and China, and struck a serious blow to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

CANBERRA – In response to US President Donald Trump’s policy of maximum pressure, Iran has just seized a second foreign oil tanker. Trump’s approach to bringing Iran’s Islamic regime to heel clearly is not working. If anything, it has created another Middle East flashpoint, undermined transatlantic relations, benefited Russia and China, and struck a serious blow to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Where to from here?

Trump’s biggest problem is that the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – from which he has withdrawn the United States, have remained committed to the deal. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China have also opposed Trump’s imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Iran. They are committed to preserving the agreement and to doing everything possible to persuade Iran’s leaders to continue to adhere to it. The European signatories have established a special mechanism to facilitate trade and business with Iran at the risk of US retaliation, while Russia and China have expanded their economic and strategic ties with the Islamic Republic, marking the first time in the history of the Western alliance that America’s European allies have joined forces with its rivals.

These powers’ support for Iran is not adequate to compensate for American secondary sanctions, which punish all governments and companies that do business there. But it can soften the sanctions’ effects and strengthen the Iranian regime’s resilience. Iran has already shown its capacity to resist by downing an US spy drone, allegedly targeting six oil tankers, and seizing two more in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz. It has thus signaled its ability to choke the Strait, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil passes, despite the US show of force in the Gulf to ensure maritime safety.

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