In his first major public speech as U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo outlined the new strategy towards Iran after the American withdrawal from the JCPOA-deal.
Much hyped beforehand, it turned out to be not so new, or to contain much novel strategic thinking on Iran. Tough new sanctions and harsh wording about the Iranian regime, should it not acquiesce to the new demands, couldn’t hide the fact that without solid support from Europeans (which is not forthcoming) and others, these new policy-options may not yield the results hoped for in Washington.
Second-tiered or indirect sanctions will have an impact; French energy-giant Total and Danish Maersk have for example stated they will leave Iran, fearing sanctions. But that may not hurt Iran per se, since others are prepared to step into the breach (such as Russia and China) and keep buying Iranian crude.
It’s obviously too early to assess the long-term implications of these U.S. moves, but there is a clear risk that it may hurt U.S. ties with Europe as much as it will hurt Iran.
As for the European signatories (France, the UK and Germany), continued negotiations with Iran will be on-going, trying to salvage the deal. Whether that will seriously alter anything remains to be seen as well, but it does give Iranian President Rouhani – who has stated his support for staying in the deal – a good chance of widening the already frayed U.S.-European relations. On the other hand, Rouhani’s domestic foes within the IRGC and the circles around supreme leader Khamenei (many who have been against the JCPOA-deal from the start), can point to the current crisis and accuse the present government of failing to deliver after agreeing to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions. True or not, the current crisis will add to Iran’s domestic problems, but it will not necessarily lead to a change of Iranian regional policies, despite Pompeo’s tough stance.