Q2: Wouldn’t more sanctions now enable us to get a better deal? If sanctions have been successful in getting Iran to the negotiating table thus far, why would we stop this successful strategy now? Wouldn’t more sanctions now enable us to get a better deal?
Added sanctions at this point will hurt, not help, the negotiations, and question the US’ seriousness to reach an agreement. Regardless of how much the economic pressure of sanctions may have contributed to Iranian leaders’ thinking in seeking an agreement, it does not follow that still more sanctions would somehow work even better. It is not sanctions that have “brought Iran to the table,” but rather the prospect of getting sanctions relief as part of a negotiated agreement. Adding more sanctions at this point, after the significant progress in Geneva, would be to take a diplomatic process that is moving forward and suddenly to throw it into reverse gear.
International support for more sanctions at this time is lacking. If the U.S. Congress imposed more sanctions now, we should expect India, China, and others to ease their application of sanctions on Iran—without trading such easing for any Iranian concessions.
More sanctions now, when diplomacy is just beginning, would convince the Supreme Leader and other Iranian policy-makers that the United States is not interested in reaching an agreement, that its true objective is regime change, and that it is using negotiations only to stall while sanctions inflict additional economic damage on Iran. If Iranian leaders believe that they face nothing but continuing, or even increasing, sanctions no matter what they do at the negotiating table, then they have no incentive to make any more concessions. To the extent that other countries perceive, and oppose, U.S. interest in regime change, this perception will loosen the isolation of Iran.
It is unrealistic to expect that by continually adding sanctions, we will eventually reach a point where the Iranians will cry uncle and give in to our demands. Some demands, such as a total halt to uranium enrichment (zero enrichment), would be politically infeasible for any Iranian leader to accept, no matter how much the Iranian economy might be suffering from sanctions.