US Iran Envoy Says Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Was a ‘Failure’

Malley denounced the previous administration's policy, but Trump's crippling economic sanctions are still in place

In an interview with BBC Persian on Wednesday, President Biden’s Iran envoy said the Trump administration’s Iran policy, known as the maximum pressure campaign, was a “failure.”

“The maximum pressure campaign has failed. It was a predicted failure. It hasn’t made life any better for the Iranian people … It hasn’t brought us any closer to this ‘better deal’ that President Trump spoke about,” said Robert Malley. “Maximum pressure should be a thing of the past.”

While Malley denounced Trump’s policies, the crippling economic sanctions left by the Trump administration are still in place. Malley even recognized that economic sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians.

He said the Biden administration wants to return to the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and lift sanctions on Iran but insists this can only be done through talks with Tehran, as opposed to the US unilaterally lifting sanctions.

The Biden administration’s position has been that it will only lift sanctions on Iran once it reverses the activity of its civilian nuclear program. Iranian officials have made it clear that they would return to the limits set by the JCPOA if the Biden administration lifts sanctions. Since the US is the party that violated the deal, Iran wants Biden to act first.

“We can play games about who goes first. I think anyone who’s dealt with this knows that neither side is going to go first entirely,” Malley said. “There’s going to have to be some agreement on choreographing, on synchronising. We’re open to discussing that, but it’s going to have to be discussed. It’s not going to happen simply unilaterally by one side taking all the steps and waiting.”

In the first weeks of Biden’s presidency, Iranian officials offered to coordinate the steps needed to revive the JCPOA. But the US initially rejected the offer. While Malley might sound diplomatic, other Biden officials are sending hostile signals to Tehran. Last week, the US slapped sanctions on two Iranian officials, ramping up the maximum pressure campaign.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.