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Can the U.S. force Iran to capitulate?

Trump issues stark warning to Iran
Trump issues stark warning to Iran 02:09

By slapping Iran's supreme leader and his associates with a new round of sanctions Monday, the U.S. continues to strangle Iran's economy as it attempts to push the country into giving up its ability to make nuclear weapons. But will it be enough? 

"The real question is, can we force Iran to capitulate," argues Brookings Institution Iran expert Suzanne Maloney. She joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for breakfast Wednesday to discuss the options available to the U.S. in its efforts to constrict Iran's economy and rid the nation of its nuclear capabilities. 

"We haven't yet seen that there's any real scope for a full-scale capitulation, which is of course, what the Trump administration is demanding from Iran -- not just on the nuclear issue but on a wide range of other policies," Maloney said. 

The U.S. has sanctioned Iran since November 1979, when the regime seized the U.S. embassy there and began a hostage crisis. After years of negotiation, the Obama administration joined with a group of other countries to form the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which would restrict Iran's nuclear capabilities and enforce rigid monitoring of its developments. 

Throughout his presidential campaign, President Trump promised his supporters he would extricate the United States from the "embarrassing" deal which he said provided few actual accountability measures and which he also argued Iran could easily skirt. 

"It wasn't a perfect agreement, but it went further than any other nonproliferation agreement has done in history to try to impose restrictions on Iran's activities to try to provide transparency around exactly what Iran was doing at every phase in the nuclear industry from mining, to centrifuge production, to the installation of centrifuges," Maloney said. "There were inspectors -- there was a very strict regime of verification for this deal and so in that respect I think it was the best we could do at the time."

By May 2018, Mr. Trump fulfilled his promise and removed the U.S. from the agreement. In marking the anniversary a year later, he declared he wanted to drive Iran's oil exports to zero -- a move that enraged Iranian leaders. 

Relations with Iran have been deteriorating in recent weeks. Mr. Trump blames Iran for shooting down a surveillance drone that U.S. officials say was flying over international waters. Iran claimed that the drone had invaded its airspace. A limited military strike against Iran was underway in retaliation, but soon after the operation began, Mr. Trump suddenly called it off, explaining later that he did so because the strikes could cause the deaths of an estimated 150 Iranians. 

When President Trump announced the new round of sanctions Monday, Iran's president responded by saying the Trump administration is "afflicted by mental retardation."

"The latest measures are redundant to measures that are already in place," Maloney told Garrett. "But they do, I think, have more than a symbolic effect because what they're intended to do is make the entire Iranian economy toxic."

At a certain point, she argued, those kinds of provocations are going to demand some kind of American response beyond increased economic pressure. 

What would a military strike look like?

"A military strike can take out the nuclear facilities," as Maloney sees it, "but it almost certainly escalates into a wider war that would be very sustained, would require hundreds of thousands of American troops and would surely result in devastating impact on the global economy."

President Trump is in Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 summit where he is expected to address the situation in Iran with other world leaders. 

For more of Major's conversation with Suzanne Maloney, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

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