The Trump administration is looking to tighten the screws on Iran as much as possible ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th. On Wednesday, President Trump’s envoy for Iran, Elliot Abrams, laid out the plan at a virtual Beirut Institute event.
“We will have next week, and the week after, and the week after — all through December and January, there will be sanctions that deal with arms, that deal with weapons of mass destruction, that deal with human rights,” Abrams said. “So this will continue on for another couple of months, right until the end.”
The idea is to make it as difficult as possible for a Biden administration to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Abrams framed the strategy as a way to gain leverage over Iran to negotiate a tougher deal.
“We think the Biden administration has a great opportunity because there is so much leverage on Iran through the sanctions,” he said. “If we discard the leverage we have, it would really be tragic and foolish. But if we use it there is a chance I think for constructive agreement that addresses all of these problems.”
Pursuing a tougher deal with Iran before sanctions relief is likely a non-starter for negotiations. Iran has made it clear that they will not come to the table until the US returns to the JCPOA by lifting sanctions.
Abrams also announced new Iran-related sanctions on four Russian and Chinese firms that the US alleges are enabling Iran’s ballistic missile program.