By Geneive Abdo & Firas Maksad
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing on Iran at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The familiar mantra is getting louder from Iran’s Western apologists, who say President Trump’s sanctions policy is counterproductive, probably because the opposite is true: There is growing evidence that Iran is cash-poor and its Middle East patrons are suffering.

That’s why it is time to declare what seemed unthinkable when Trump ran for president: His Iran policy, focused primarily on pressuring the Islamic Republic to end its sponsorship of militias throughout the Middle East and to renegotiate the nuclear deal, appears to be bearing fruit.

This past winter, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insisted that U.S. sanctions were not working, that Iran would never renegotiate the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and that it was the U.S., rather than Iran, that was growing isolated. On April 24, he took an about-turn, announcing to U.S. media that Iran wants to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Washington.

Four days later, Zarif said that Iran might have to withdraw from the JCPOA. But for Washington the JCPOA is already dead; the Trump administration’s May 2018 withdrawal coupled with the inability of European signatories to help Iran recover from the damage caused by the U.S. re-imposing sanctions effectively killed it. And while past negotiations were limited to its nuclear program, the Trump administration is equally, if not more, focused on the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.

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