Key Points

The importers of Iranian petrochemicals continue to include both U.S. allies as well as rivals. Countries that share a land border with Iran – including Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan – remain among its best customers; so do two Persian Gulf states – the UAE and Oman – that share maritime borders. This geographical proximity means that Tehran could easily smuggle payments back home in the form of either foreign currency or precious metals. Curbing Iran’s petrochemical exports will require intense negotiation with countries that are prepared to find new suppliers. An aggressive use of sanctions and other punitive measures may be needed for those who refuse to comply.

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Finally, the U.S. should seek agreement with China but be prepared to wield sanctions and other punitive measures. Telecom giant Huawei is already facing federal charges for violating sanctions on Iran and then destroying evidence of it. The president should be wary of hollow promises from Beijing that entail no meaningful change in its behavior.

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Most responsible for that, I suspect, are America’s universities which, since the Sixties, have been increasingly occupied and ruled by socialists of various stripes. Sen. Sanders and AOC may be among the beneficiaries. If so, the rest of us, those who have managed to learn a thing or two over the years, will be the losers.

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The U.S. should not hesitate to reduce Iranian exports substantially by cutting the import allowance associated with each oil waiver. Vigorous enforcement of sanctions will also be essential. A reduction to zero may not be possible in May, yet any substantial reduction will hurt a regime so dependent on oil.

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Such an approach will require the US to finally move away from counterterrorism and state-building as a guiding strategic concept in the Middle East.

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