Since the Trump decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and launch the "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, internal developments in the Islamic Republic have benefitted one group in particular: The most radical clerics and the allied top leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). While I have no doubt that President Trump's motive in pulling out of the deeply flawed P5+1 agreement was to force Iran to the table to renegotiate a much more comprehensive and permanent JCPOA 2.0, the consequences have been to actually push Iran further away from negotiation and closer to a repressive military junta.
There are four pillars of power inside the Islamic Republic: The Supreme National Security Council, the Judiciary, the Majlis and the Presidency. Under the weight of US sanctions and the capitulation by European governments and multinationals to the threat of US secondary sanctions, the IRGC and allied clerics have taken control over the Majlis, consolidated control over the Judiciary, strengthened their hand with the Supreme National Security Council. And now, with presidential elections coming up in June 2021, they stand poised to win the presidency. It is likely that a "former" IRGC commander will be the presidential candidate for the ultra-conservative Principalist bloc. Another former IRGC commander is widely considered to be the successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei upon his death or retirement.
The biggest gains for the IRGC–and the biggest disaster for the Iranian people–is on the economic front. With foreign goods effectively barred from the country, with the Iranian Rial in a hyperinflationary free-fall, control over the domestic economy has been consolidated by a network of so-called foundations all under the control of the IRGC. Low quality domestic goods are all the Iranian people can afford, and the IRGC has the monopoly on that production.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the US lack of strategy for dealing with militant Iran. Back in 2009, when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest a blatantly fraudulent election giving IRGC's Ahmadinejad a second presidential term, President Obama ignored his own national security team, and instead of supporting the Green Movement, sent letters of cooperation and congratulations to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. US intelligence failed to note that Khamenei had gone into hiding, fearing a revolution was about to sweep him and the entire Islamic Republic out of power.
The missed opportunity of 2009 led to intensification of repression by the IRGC and its Basij militia. Unfortunately, President Trump's "maximum pressure" after withdrawing from JCPOA, while appearing to be the reverse of President Obama's miscalculation, proved to be another policy miscalculation, leaving Iran now on the verge of a consolidated military junta.
Hardly the Iran that is likely to welcome the US back into the JCPOA and negotiate a permanent ban on nuclear weapons and a reduction in the country's ballistic missile program.