A Political science professor at American university John Calabrese believes that the "maximum pressure" efforts are severely damaging the Iranian economy.
In an exclusive interview with ILNA news agency, he said “The administration can claim "credit" for this and continue to hold to the conviction that eventually Iranian leaders will come to the negotiating table on US terms.”
“But generally, sanctions are a blunt instrument”, the US professor confirmed.
He added that the American public and the President are currently consumed by domestic politics, notably the impeachment process. There has also been a high rate of recent turnover in senior-level personnel. These circumstances suggest that the White House is not focused on Iran in any sustained, strategic sense.
He pointed to Tehran reduced its commitments under the JCPOA (a 2015 nuclear deal) in four phases and added that at some point -- I cannot say exactly when -- either the Europeans or Iran will declare the JCPOA officially "dead", which neither party really wants to do. At that point, the probability that Iran's neighbors will seek to accelerate efforts to obtain a nuclear capability will increase dramatically.
Answering to question about how tension in Persian Gulf can down, he said “Since the attacks on the Abqaiq–Khurais Saudi oil production facilities and the subsequent US responses (including a reported cyber attack against Iran and the decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia) there has appeared to be a pause in the escalation of tension in the Persian Gulf.
“A flurry of activity in the past few weeks has given some modestly hopeful signs that diplomacy might be employed, instead of military action, to address issues of dispute. “
Calabrese added that efforts by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, the UAE's release of frozen funds to Iran, and Foreign Minister Zarif's statement that he would be willing to travel to Riyadh to "settle differences" under (unspecified) "suitable conditions" were all welcome news.
At the end, the US professor said that direct talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia are the most promising path to de-escalation of tension.
“If Iran and Saudi Arabia can open a channel of frank dialogue, this might in turn provide the US and Iran with a "face saving" window of opportunity to explore talks with each other,” he added.