All US secondary sanctions on Iran’s core economic sectors were re-imposed by the Trump administration in November 2018 as a direct consequence of its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The administration justified its withdrawal from the accord partly on the assertion that the lifting of sanctions required by the 2015 nuclear agreement was enhancing Iran’s ability to exert influence in the region. Leaving the deal and re-imposing sanctions would, according to President Donald Trump and other officials, apply “maximum pressure” on Iran—denying it the revenue to fund, arm, and train a wide network of regional allies and proxies, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, militant groups in Bahrain, and factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Trump has asserted that the re-imposition of sanctions has made Iran “a much different country.” He and other US officials state that the sanctions, including the May termination of sanctions exceptions under a 2011 law penalizing the banks of countries that do not reduce their purchases of Iranian crude oil, have devastated Iran’s economy and caused Iran to retrench in the region.
A wide range of observations and data support the former assertion, but not the latter—suggesting that the economic effects of sanctions do not necessarily translate into strategic gains for US policy.
Read the full report at the Atlantic Council.