JNS talked with Abrams by phone on Dec. 8.
Q: While the Trump administration has significantly scaled up pressure on Iran, the fact is that the Islamic regime continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and regional aggression. As such, would you consider the “maximum pressure” campaign to be a success?
A: Yes. The purpose of the campaign was to build leverage and can be used to force Iran to stop doing the many malicious things it’s doing. The president always said he anticipated a negotiation with Iran, and the purpose is to build leverage for that negotiation, and we’ve got it. We were very critical of the JCPOA for many reasons, one of them the short sunsets. But another that it covered nuclear activities only. It didn’t cover their missile program. It didn’t cover Iran’s support for terrorism and its many malign activities throughout the region. How do you get Iran to stop doing all of that when they don’t want to? The answer is you need to build up a lot of pressure on them. The leverage is there, which means the campaign has succeeded. Now the question is how that leverage will be used.
Q: Aside from sanctions, what more can be done to change Iran’s behavior?
A: There needs to be a lot of international coordination. Without the “maximum pressure” campaign, I think you would not be seeing the kind of coordination in cooperation you are seeing between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. That’s very important. We also need coordination with the Europeans, particularly the British, French and Germans, who were involved in the negotiation with Iran in 2015, to keep the pressure on the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. So, there are a number of places you need to keep the pressure on in the region, and you need to keep it on the IAEA about nuclear activities. And you need to keep the economic pressure on.