According to a report from Reuters, the incoming Biden administration will continue to use sanctions as a foreign policy weapon, a favorite tool of President Trump.
Sources told Reuters that when Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th, he will immediately begin to reshape US foreign policy but will take time to deliberate over sanctions on top targets like China and Iran.
The report raises questions about Biden’s Iran policy. The former vice president has said he plans to work with the Islamic Republic to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which would require the US to lift sanctions.
The Trump administration has been on a sanction frenzy against Iran with the hope of sabotaging Biden’s efforts to pursue diplomacy. The administration is taking a similar approach with China and recently slapped sanctions on members of Beijing’s legislature.
The report said Biden will sort through the Trump administration’s sanctions to decide what will be kept in place and what could be lifted. The sources said that while his strategy might be slightly different, Biden will make it clear that sanctions are still on the table.
“It won’t be a pullback or a push forward,” one source close to Biden’s transition team told Reuters. “It will be a readjustment in the use of the sanctions tool.”
Some changes Biden could make, according to the sources, are lifting sanctions on the International Criminal Court that the Trump administration slapped on over the court’s investigation of US war crimes in Afghanistan. Biden could also increase sanctions on Russia for its alleged role in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
When it comes to China, the source close to the transition team said Biden will likely increase sanctions over alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and possibly Tibet. An unnamed Biden advisor told Reuters that the threat of sanctions could be used to pressure China on trade issues.
Figures compiled by the Center for a New American Security think tank show President Trump’s preference for sanctions as a foreign policy tool. According to numbers, the Trump administration issued about 3,800 new sanctions “designations,” compared to 2,350 during Obama’s second term.
History shows, economic sanctions have a devastating impact on the civilian population of the target country while they do little to achieve Washington’s stated goals. One example is Cuba, which has been under a 60-year US embargo that has done nothing to depose the Communist government but continues to hurt ordinary Cubans.
Cuba is one country that Biden could give relief from sanctions. Bloomberg published a story on Tuesday that said Biden is planning to move the US closer to normalized relations with Cuba by reversing some of the sanctions and restrictions implemented by President Trump.