Seeking a “diplomatic victory” by reviving the Iran nuclear deal signals regression, former US officials warned, explaining that the Biden administration rebooting talks with the Tehran regime could ultimately downplay achievements made in the last four years.
Openly voicing their rejection of steps taken by Washington to restart negotiations with Iran in Vienna, Senior diplomats and advisors that served in the Trump administration are urging their country’s new leadership not to lay the powerful tool of sanctions to waste.
More so, they have slammed the new US Envoy to Iran Robert Malley for having criticized the policy adopted by the Trump administration on Iran.
While Malley stamped Trump's maximum pressure campaign as ineffective and a failure, his predecessor reaffirmed that another four years of sanctions would have forced the Iranian regime to comply with a more comprehensive deal that better curbs its support for terrorism and hostile ballistic missiles program.
The maximum pressure campaign, within two years, managed to deprive Iran of around $70 billion that it could have used to back terrorism and its missiles program, former US Special Representative to Venezuela and Iran Eliott Abrams told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Had former US President Donald Trump been reelected and the campaign remained in place, the Iranians would have caved under the pressure of sanctions and come around to negotiating a stricter deal, Abrams noted.
The Biden administration seems utterly committed to returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Abrams cautioned.
“By returning to the agreement, the Biden administration would be giving up all the leverage that could help negotiate additional matters like Iran’s support for terrorism and ballistic missiles program,” he explained.
As for the approach adopted by key European countries on the deal with Tehran, Abrams listed several factors that have changed since 2015.
“The UK has left the European Union and France has criticized negotiations led by former State Secretary John Kerry in 2015,” said Abrams, recalling that Paris has accused the former top diplomat of being a bad negotiator and compromising too much.
Abrams pointed out that many fear that the Biden administration will fall into the same trap as Kerry.
Former State Department Special Advisor on Iran Gabriel Noronha, for his part, defended the Trump maximum pressure campaign.
Noronha said the sanctions were very successful and forced the regime to slash its defense budget by 28% in 2019 and 25% in 2020.
Under sanctions, the Iranian regime faces bankruptcy and is stripped from its ability to continue threatening peaceful states in the Middle East, the former advisor noted, revealing that Tehran’s spending on proxies in the region had dropped by around $200 billion.
Noronha warned against “trusting Iran’s word,” and urged Biden to wait until their nuclear program is completely dismantled, before easing any sanctions.
He pressed for Washington also including the freeing of hostages and ending support for terrorism in negotiations with the Iranian regime.
Ellie Cohanim, deputy special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism at the State Department, confirmed that the economic sanctions slapped by the Trump administration were able to significantly weaken the Iranian regime.
Sanctions were able to cripple the Iranian economy and plummet the value of its currency, said Cohanim, adding that the Biden administration, because of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, now has the upper hand in negotiations.
She also urged the Biden administration to acknowledge Iran’s record of sponsoring terrorism.
“The Biden administration must recognize that Iran is the first state sponsor of terrorism in the world, with ambitions of hegemony and imperialism in the Middle East,” said Cohanim.
“Time and time again, Iran proved that it is using resources to fund terrorist proxies,” she added, reaffirming that “there is no good reason to enter a deal that guarantees the Iranian regime a nuclear weapon in due time.”