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Trump VS Iran | Munk Debates

EPISODE #3

Trump VS Iran

Be it resolved, Trump’s sanctions regime is the right response to Iran’s regional ambitions.

Guests
Mark Dubowitz
Robert Malley

About this episode

After tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran, President Trump is doubling down on punishing economic sanctions against Tehran. The goal? Maximum pressure to squeeze the Iranian economy and force Tehran to stop supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region from Yemen and Syria to Lebanon and Israel. Critics say this strategy isn’t working and has raised the risk of a regional conflict to dangerous levels. Iran sees U.S. actions as an outright bid for regime change. Iran has reacted to U.S. threats with more Uranium enrichment, confronting America militarily and threatening Saudi Arabia’s security and global energy markets.

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Guests

Mark Dubowitz

“The regime is weakened, it's on its heels and we are in a position now to push forward.”

Mark Dubowitz

“The regime is weakened, it's on its heels and we are in a position now to push forward.”

Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of FDD, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan policy institute.

He is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program and global threat network, and is widely recognized as one of the key influencers in shaping sanctions policies to counter the threats from the regime in Iran.

In 2019, Iran sanctioned Mark and FDD, calling them “the designing and executing arm of the U.S. administration” on Iran policy. These threats led to bipartisan condemnation, including from Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton administration officials.

According to the New York Times, “Mark Dubowitz’s campaign to draw attention to what he saw as the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal has taken its place among the most consequential ever undertaken by a Washington think tank leader.”

Robert Malley

“This is a gamble that could risk many Iranian lives, many regional lives, and the security of the United States.”

Robert Malley

“This is a gamble that could risk many Iranian lives, many regional lives, and the security of the United States.”

Robert Malley is the President & CEO of International Crisis Group. Previously, he served in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to the President, Senior Adviser to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign, and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region. He was part of the U.S. negotiating team that helped conclude the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 
 
He also served in the Clinton administration as Special Assistant to the President for Arab-Israeli Affairs and Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.  

Malley is a graduate of Yale University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University.

Show Notes

The Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed in July 2015 between Iran and the US, China, France, Germany, the UK, and Russia. As part of the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges and stockpile of uranium enrichment to halt its nuclear weapons program. The deal also gave UN inspectors access to Iran’s nuclear facilities to make sure they were complying with the terms of the agreement. In 2016, in exchange for Iran’s compliance with the agreement, nuclear-related international sanctions against the country were lifted. Many critics of the deal felt that it didn’t do enough to limit the country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. It’s sunset clauses would allow part of the deal to expire, meaning in 10 years Iran would be able to increase its centrifuges and re-start their nuclear weapons program.
 
At the start of the debate, Mark thanks Robert for coming to his public defense against the Islamic Republic in Iran. In July, the Iranian foreign ministry announced it was sanctioning the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and its executive director Mark Dubowitz, calling them instrumental in propagating “unilateral and illegal economic terrorism”. Tehran accused the Washington think tank of “designing, imposing and intensifying” the Trump administration’s economic sanctions on Iran. You can read about the tense relationship between Iran and the FDD here.

Mark talks about the protests taking place in Iraq and Lebanon and their connection to Iran’s government. Demonstrators in Iraq and Lebanon blame Iran for wielding political influence in their countries through Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Shiite militant class in Iraq.

Robert mentions the recent Iranian attacks on US drones and Saudi oil fields as proof that tensions between the US and Iran have intensified. You can read about those provocations here.
 
Mark talks about Iran’s currency reserves that are sitting in escrow while Iranians are finding it hard to pay for basic necessities. According to the IMF, Iran has currency reserves of roughly $85 billion.

Rob talks about Iran’s decision to resume its uranium enrichment program after President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA. The country has also surpassed its cap on the stockpile of low-grade uranium in a sign that it is moving towards developing nuclear weapons.

Mark compares the economic sanctions against Iran to those put in place against South Africa in the 1980’s. The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 imposed sanctions against the Afrikaner government with the goal of bringing about an end to the system of apartheid. In 1990 and 1991, South African President F. W. de Klerk began to meet the preconditions set out by the Anti-Apartheid Act. In 1991, following the repeal of Apartheid laws, President Bush lifted all bans against doing business with South Africa. Here is a looks at recent sanctions initiatives and their success and failures.