Key Points

The goal of U.S policy right now should be to help the Iranian people by forcing Khamenei and his officials to use the country’s resources to address the current health crisis. If Tehran wants the sanctions removed, there is a clear path forward to end its destructive activities. Until then, American pressure should be maximized.

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The most effective means for the United States to counter Iran’s strategy is to intensify the maximum pressure campaign, which is sapping the regime’s strength and depriving it of the resources to expand its regional power and fund its costly nuclear and missile programs. This does not mean the United States should be indifferent to the plight of tens of millions of Iranians. The United States should continue to offer transparently distributed medical assistance that may benefit the victims of the epidemic. Yet easing pressure on the regime would only hand it greater resources with which to continue its malign policies. Fundamental changes in the regime’s behavior, or even a complete change of the political system in Iran, are possible only if the U.S. maximum pressure policy continues.

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The Islamic Republic’s rampant corruption and money laundering practices are rooted in a financial structure that runs contrary to IMF rules by operating multiple currency exchange rates. While the IMF allows its members to operate multiple rates temporarily, Tehran relies on its multiple rates as a means of distributing political spoils by granting regime loyalists access to hard currency on favorable terms.

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Beyond its potential to expose the corrupt involvement of senior Turkish leaders in Iran’s sanctions-evasion schemes, the Halkbank case also offers an important reminder about the Islamic Republic’s systematic abuse of humanitarian sanctions exceptions to enrich the regime and fund its nuclear weapons program, proxy wars, and sponsorship of terrorism.

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While Washington’s recent surge in activity and publicity on the Iran procurement file is welcome, it must increase to keep pace with reported Iranian efforts. Although Tehran ultimately did not receive what it sought to procure from Bosnia, if history is a guide, it will be seeking this material elsewhere. Washington should be prepared.

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Events

EVENT: U.S. Government Sanctions Priorities and Approach in 2020

March 9, 2020 | 12:15

EVENT: Maximum Pressure 2.0: A Plan for North Korea

December 13, 2019 | 12:00

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