Even modest steps to lift the Trump-era sanctions will all but sabotage any hopes of getting Iran to make any sort of concessions on the myriad of issues that the Obama deal failed to address. Any form of sanctions relief will be a lifeline to the regime, which had been hamstrung by the maximum-pressure campaign.
In the weeks leading up to Vienna, top Biden officials have clearly signaled that such concessions are in the offing. Additionally, they are repeating one of the core mistakes made by Obama’s national-security team. That is, out of a desperation to sign a deal that they could claim dealt with the nuclear issue, the Obama administration looked the other way when it came to Iran’s malign behavior around the world and jumped at every chance to grease the wheels of negotiations.
Similarly, under Biden, U.S. officials reportedly held discussions with South Korea about unfreezing Iranian assets tied up by oil sanctions there. They’ve declined to oppose a potential $5 billion IMF loan to the country, and have apparently turned a blind eye to Iranian oil sales to Chinese firms that would violate sanctions.
All the while, the administration has telegraphed that it will do very little to apply pressure to Iranian proxies, and that it’s even reducing the U.S. military footprint in the Gulf region.