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President Donald Trump during a roundtable on Venezuela in Doral, Florida President Donald Trump during a roundtable on Venezuela in Doral, Florida, July 10, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Can Biden Unwind Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ on Venezuela and Iran?

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020

When President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, he will inherit two types of problems from his predecessor. The first will involve repairing the damage President Donald Trump created through neglect: the alliances, partnerships, multilateral organizations and U.S. government institutions to which Trump paid too little attention the past four years. Though not negligible, these problems will in most cases be relatively straightforward to address through methodical diplomacy—the simple art of showing up.

The second category of problems has to do with the damage Trump created by paying too much attention to an issue: most of all, his campaigns of “maximum pressure” on Venezuela and Iran, which have succeeded in applying pressure, mainly through sanctions, but failed to achieve any meaningful outcomes. It will require more thought and care to unwind these failed policies without sacrificing leverage for whatever approach Biden hopes to pursue instead. Both Venezuela and Iran will also be politically fraught for the incoming administration, as any softening of America’s posture to unblock the current impasses will be portrayed by hawks in Washington as rewarding unsavory regimes that have no domestic constituencies of support in the U.S. ...

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