The Wall Street Journal editors want…wait for it…more pressure on Iran:
Abandoning negotiations would mean a return to Mr. Trump’s “maximum-pressure” sanctions campaign, which Biden officials criticized. But the single-term Trump Administration never had a chance to fully realize the strategy. As deadly protests rock Iran’s southwest, the Biden Administration should be increasing pressure on the regime—not giving it an escape route.
Sanctions advocates always have an excuse for why their pressure campaigns fail to achieve their stated goals. If the targeted state does not make concessions, it is because the sanctions are not strict enough or they have not been given time to work. This has become the fallback argument that Iran hawks use to defend the abject failure of “maximum pressure,” but their argument falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. Iran has been under increasingly severe sanctions, both multilateral and unilateral, for most of the last two decades, and each time Iran came under increased pressure from outside their response was to build up the nuclear program in response. More time and more pressure cannot yield the results Iran hawks claim to want because their goals are unachievable.
Continuing “maximum pressure” would take us down the same well-trodden path of escalation as Iran builds more centrifuges and enriches more uranium at higher levels and the U.S. applies more pointless sanctions. The impasse was broken in Obama’s second term when the U.S. and the other members of the P5+1 were willing to strike the compromise on domestic enrichment that they could have had years earlier. All that the sanctions achieved the first time was to get an agreement that required Iran to reverse the expansion of the nuclear program that had been triggered by the imposition of sanctions. The sanctions campaign was all a colossal waste of time and effort, and many innocent Iranians suffered needlessly in the meantime. The same thing is unfolding now, except that the sanctions are being imposed only by the U.S. and have no legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.