How did we get here?
Last May, Donald Trump pulled the US out of the “horrible,” “disastrous,” “incompetently negotiated,” and “laughable” Iran nuclear deal and vowed to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which he did over a six-month period.
In November, Trump issued temporary sanctions waivers to the eight biggest importers of Iranian oil – China, India, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, Greece, Italy, and Taiwan – in order to steady the oil market and give them time to find new suppliers. These expired today.
The US expects all eight countries to honour the deadline and three (Greece, Italy, and Taiwan) had already stopped importing Iranian oil, while Japan and South Korea had paused their imports while waiting for word from the US and are unlikely to resume.
China and Turkey have come out against the sanctions, but they are broadly expected to comply.
This is part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian government in order to change the mullahs’ behaviour, like ending its support for terrorist proxies and regional expansionism. The US has steadily increased nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions against Iran since leaving the nuclear deal and last month it designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a secretive military force that controls the majority of the economy, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The Iranian Regime has responded to all of this with threats and not much else. They threatened to:
- quit the nuclear deal and restart its nuclear program, which doesn’t mean that much considering they never really shut it down in the first place
- close the strategically important shipping lane, the Strait of Hormuz, but they’ve threatened this multiple times and never followed through
Importantly, there is no sign that Iran is modifying its behaviour. Of course, this is not surprising. The Regime is built on terrorism, warfare, and repression. Foregoing those would mean the end of the Regime.
However, the Iranian Regime is showing clear signs of stress and is losing the ability to pay its terrorist proxies, leading Hezbollah to ask for donations. Every dollar that the Regime is deprived of is another dollar that won’t be used for terrorism.
This pressure needs to be kept up though, so more sanctions are needed from the US and the rest of the world.