January 26, 2021 | The Hill

What Zarif’s words should tell President Biden about Iran deal

January 26, 2021 | The Hill

What Zarif’s words should tell President Biden about Iran deal

Excerpt

On the anniversary of Qassem Soleimani’s death, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gave an interview in which he highlighted his close relationship to the late commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary and dark-arts branch, the Quds Force. Zarif said he and Soleimani coordinated their regional tasks and projects. Zarif also offered insight into the clerical regime’s strategy for handling the Biden administration: He denied there was going to be any JCPOA 2 and 3, meaning the regime will not negotiate any follow-on agreements to the 2015 nuclear deal (known by the acronym JCPOA) that limit Iran’s missile program and regional policies.

This is a serious problem for Biden, since he justifies his pledge to rejoin the flawed JCPOA — and, in doing so, lift sanctions — by insisting that he will pursue a tougher follow-on deal. Rather than pursuing that futile objective, Biden should employ the leverage generated by Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to insist the clerical regime accept restraints on its missile program and regional policies before any sanctions come off.

In his interview, Zarif made clear the regime understands the coercive power of sanctions. He said, after the JCPOA, Tehran’s first priority was to develop a “resistance economy,” which is effectively sanctions-proof. Popularized by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, this concept focuses on encouraging the domestic production of goods, thereby diminishing the country’s reliance on oil exports to finance the purchase of foreign goods. It also emphasizes finding reliable allies to help Iran bypass potential sanctions. To that end, Tehran’s economic diplomacy entails creating division among western countries, as well as working with Russia, China, and other states to prevent the imposition of further sanctions on Tehran. The regime also cultivates close ties to groups and factions in the West which are ideologically more aligned with Tehran’s worldview.

Dr. Saeed Ghasseminejad is a senior Iran and financial economics advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), specializing in Iran’s economy and financial markets, sanctions and illicit finance. Follow him on Twitter @SGhasseminejad. FDD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. FDD does not accept donations from foreign governments.

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Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran Nuclear Iran Politics and Economy Iran Sanctions Sanctions and Illicit Finance