Consequences of Iranian Sanctions Removal


Iran is en route to ramping up its oil production and exportation to pre-sanction levels. Back in 2018, the United States, under the Trump administration, left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA). The exiting of the JPCOA was precipitated by a lack of transparency regarding Iran’s nuclear program and other violations of the agreement. Additionally, the JPCOA was a flawed deal that all but ensured Iran would be able to obtain nuclear weapons on an extended timeline. In effect, the JPCOA offered Iran economic concessions in exchange for a temporary delay in nuclear weapons development.

Under the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Iran’s oil exportation dropped from 2.6 million barrels of oil each day to 385,000 barrels of oil per day. According to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, these sanctions put significant pressure on Tehran, hampering the regime’s primary economic resource. This pressure was serving as a means to persuade Tehran against pursuing nuclear weapons, imperialist expansion in the Middle East, funding terrorist attacks, and continuing its long history of human rights abuses.

However, presently under the Biden administration, the United States has begun lifting these sanctions in an effort to reenter a deal similar to the JPCOA. In practice, the negotiations surrounding the new deal with Iran have shaped an agreement much less favorable to the United States and significantly more beneficial to Iran and Russia. Presently, Iran has announced that its oil production and exportation are on the rise. The Islamic Republic announced that it is now producing 3.8 million barrels of oil per day, claiming it could reach full production within a couple of months. Even if this is an exaggeration by Tehran, it indicates the regime is on the economic rebound as a consequence of relaxed sanctions under the Biden administration. Moreover, under Biden’s new Iran deal, the clerical regime will gain access to nearly $131 billion in foreign assets.

The revenue that Iran stands to generate from increased oil sales is greatly increased due to the high oil prices currently in place around the world. As the United States continues to play in Iran’s favor, Tehran’s authoritarian regime stands to grow in power. Organizations researching foreign policy such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies report Iran’s government has a long record of perpetuating human rights abuses, seeking regional expansion, funding terror attacks against the west, and pursuing nuclear weapons to aid in achieving its goals.

If the United States allows Iran to regenerate its primary economic engine, oil exportation, then Iran is being given the resources and the green light to continue with its pernicious aims. Moreover, the current deal being worked out between the United States and Iran does not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them over long ranges. Iran has been acting as an ally to Russia and China, and these developments regarding sanctions and oil only serve to strengthen this anti-American alliance. None of these developments benefit the United States’ national interests or the interests of the region Iran occupies. 


Iran in Latin America


iran latin america


For decades, Latin America has been utilized by Iran as a hotbed for generating terrorist activities to facilitate Tehran’s political aims. Some areas in Latin America remain ripe with drug trafficking, cartel operations, and other illicit activities. 

These loosely controlled areas with inconsistent or corrupt political control, in combination with sympathetic Shiite populations in regions such as in Columbia, provide grounds for Iran to carry out their foreign policy aims against their ideological opponents. This list of opponents includes a number of Western entities, but the United States and Israel have been Iran’s primary targets. Latin America also provides Iran with a region to carry out terrorist plots with a smaller chance of large-scale retribution from their ideological adversaries. Despite this history, terrorist activity in Latin America does not receive significant public attention.

Back in 2020, the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was the architect behind many Iranian-sponsored terrorist plots and human-rights abuses in the Middle East and abroad. At the time, Iran had been launching rocket attacks and other operations against United States forces in Iraq. In response to the death of Soleimani, Iran and Hezbollah promised retribution

Over the past couple of years, Iran has attempted to carry out terrorist attacks, but these attacks were foiled and failed to come to fruition. These planned attacks were to be carried out against U.S. and Israeli targets. The targets included prominent U.S. and Israeli businessmen and their families, diplomats, embassies, and other interests. Iran and Hezbollah have well-developed networks within Latin America and the Middle East. Using these networks, Iran can continue to both recruit for, and resource future terrorist plots.

A number of these intended attacks were to take place in Latin America and Columbia, according to monitoring organizations such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In one case, Hezbollah operatives involved had previously been expelled from Columbia but were able to return. Drug trafficking operations have been used to facilitate transferring money, personnel, and storing weapons caches for Iranian operatives. 

These operations are at times aided by a number of Shiite mosques in Latin America, many of which are under the influence of Hezbollah and Iranian friendly religious leaders. Often the corruption-ripe justice systems of Latin American countries enable terrorists to avoid prosecution, with terrorist agents being sent back to Iran or other countries instead, as reported by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

There has been a long history, especially active in recent years, of Iranian-sponsored terrorist activity in Latin America. These terrorist activities target U.S. and Israeli interests. With this in mind, it is increasingly likely Iran will attempt further terrorist attacks in the near future, with United States and Israeli personal and interests as the prime targets. These Iranian terrorist plots tend to receive minimal media attention compared to terrorist activities in other regions, which helps keep Latin America a desired area for continued Iranian involvement.  Latin America will serve as Iran’s ideological warzone in the years to come. 

Iran and Trade with the European Union

Iran trade deal


The European Union (EU) invested a considerable amount of resources and political capital into arranging the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) initiated under the Obama Administration. A few years later, the EU also tried hard to prevent former President Trump from withdrawing from the JPCOA. 


Currently, with President Biden in office, the EU is once again moving toward positioning itself as the middle man between the Iranian regime and Washington. Given the EU’s continued investment in nuclear and trade policy with Iran, it begs the question, what does the EU stand to gain from the outcome of this arrangement?


If a deal similar to the JPCOA were to be reenacted between Washington and Tehran, sanctions would be softened, facilitating trade between Iran and Europe. EU states opposed Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, which placed restrictive sanctions on Iran. However, Trump’s maximum pressure sanctions had about the same impact on Iran-European Union trading as the multilateral sanctions did before the JPCOA was enacted. As far as the EU is concerned, Trump’s sanctions serve as a return to the status quo of restricted trade with Iran. The JPCOA represented an opportunity to change this ‘norm.’ 


Moreover, while EU states have access to many trading partners, Iran does not. If sanctions were to be lifted or softened, states in the EU would benefit financially from a more exclusive trading arrangement with Iran. A large part of the impact of sanctions is related to limiting the importation of crude oil from Iran. The JPCOA softened sanctions on Iran, opening up avenues for EU states to gain financially from the treaty through trade and investment opportunities.


Foreign policy researchers indicate that other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, stand to gain from sanctions on Iran. See here for more information on foreign policy research. With oil exports from Iran restricted, other countries such as those in the EU turn to Saudi Arabia for crude oil imports. About 46 percent of oil exports from Saudi Arabia go to the EU. A given country’s position toward sanctions with Iran can reflect what they stand to gain or lose.


The lifting of sanctions provides the EU with an opportunity for financial investment and trade with Iran. During the height of sanctions with Iran, both before the JPCOA and during Trump’s presidency, EU trade with Iran dropped significantly. Additionally, Iran imports goods from the EU. With sanctions in place, the EU is faced with a negative economic impact due to restrictions on importation.


According to experts on international sanctions such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, states in the EU stand to gain and seek to open up with Iran. This, despite the negative consequences of less restrictive sanctions policies. The lifting of sanctions and returning to an arrangement similar to the JPCOA trade could empower the Iranian regime and facilitate their nuclear weapons ambitions. 


With renewed trade and a growing economy, the theocratic regime in Iran would be bolstered and strengthened. This strengthening of political capital in combination with greater financial resources would provide Tehran with the means to grow its military and nuclear capabilities to dominate the Middle East and further perpetuate terrorist attacks and human rights abuses.

Biden has No Iran Policy


Over the past several months, the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased its uranium enrichment closer to bomb purity levels, approaching 60%. Additionally, the Iranian regime has further blocked the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) from being able to observe or investigate Iran’s nuclear-related activities. Iran maintains confidential nuclear sites and other related facilities that are not monitored or reported on by any third-party organization. Recent reports suggest that Iran could be as close as one month away from possessing sufficient weapons-grade uranium to produce nuclear weapons. What has the Biden administration been doing about this?

The Biden administration began its term with the intention of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) originally instituted by the Obama administration and later withdrawn from by Trump in 2018. However, six rounds of negotiations later combined with Iran’s continued advancement of its nuclear weapons production; President Biden appears to be still willing to lift sanctions further or allow weapons advancements just for the opportunity to talk with Iran. Iran appears to be gaining desired concessions from the U.S. without providing anything in return.

Historically, American diplomatic relations with the Iranian regime have been characterized by Washington conceding first and Iran achieving the upper hand. Biden appears to be aimed at continuing this pattern. At this point, Tehran does not appear interested in reentering the JCPOA as it was. Moreover, Tehran is trying to extort further concessions from the United States and its allies in order to simply enter discussions. Given that President Biden has already eased sanctions on Iranian oil exportation without Iran producing anything in return, it appears likely Biden is going to produce further concessions just to get Iran to talk. 

According to a think tank in defense of democracy, following the leadership of the Biden administration, the world appears to be approaching a time where the Islamic Republic’s nuclearization and domination of the Middle East are accepted as the status quo. It has become clear over the past eight months that Biden is not willing to take a hardline against Tehran’s nuclear weaponization or regional domination. As such, in all likelihood, Iran will soon reach a point where it can easily realize its nuclear and regional dominance-related aims. According to organizations that report on nuclear weapons proliferation, such as Foundation for Defence of Democracies, soon there will be no turning back.

Consequently, a nuclear-armed Iran will dominate the Middle East. The United States and other countries will no longer have the ability to significantly influence the region. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel are strongly interested in limiting Iranian nuclear capabilities, however, they may not have the ability to change Iran’s trajectory. While the current U.S. president and his team may be averse to wielding American power, their current stance will lead to the U.S. becoming unable to wield power in the future. With a region as important as the Middle East at the political whim of the Iranian regime, this will only spell problems for the region and much of the world in the future.