Middle East Briefs

Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.

Latest Brief

September 2020 – U.S.-Iran Relations under Maximum Pressure: A Narrow Path to Negotiations

Arash Davari

Middle East Brief 137 (Summary) — In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and began its "maximum pressure campaign" to compel Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Almost two years later, sanctions on Iran continue, talks have not recommenced, and U.S.-Iranian relations remain at a stalemate. This has led to speculation that the campaign is regime change in disguise. In this Brief, Arash Davari unpacks the maximum pressure campaign's internal logic to identify the conditions under which it would induce the true power brokers in Iran to engage in negotiations. He concludes that the current U.S. policy appears to be a regime change one because the narrow set of preconditions under which negotiations would happen have not occurred. But this analysis also suggests that, under different circumstances, the maximum pressure campaign may yet lead to renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran.

Read Middle East Brief 137 (PDF)

Arash Davari, Assistant Professor of Politics at Whitman College. He was a sabbatical fellow at the Crown Center in Fall 2019.