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What Trump's decision on Iran will mean for the world

From Al Jazeera - October 13, 2017

A fate as unpredictable as the reality of Donald Trump awaits the Iran nuclear deal. By refusing to certify it, and thus outsourcing any decision on the matter to 535 congressmen, Trump could cast a pall of uncertainty over the deal's future. But the ramifications of this dynamic are likely to ripple far beyond the deal itself.

To fully appreciate the broader significance of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), one would do well to consider the backdrop against which it came into being.

For all the legitimate criticisms levelled against Obama, it was thanks largely to his term in office that US engagement with the international order - repeatedly decimated by George W. Bush's uninhibited gangsterism - would undergo a groundbreaking shift. In the teeth of fierce opposition from his political rivals, Obama would stake the last remnants of his political capital to ensure US backing for two agreements of immense significance for global security: the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

For its part, the nuclear deal would act as the single most comprehensive and definitive tool, which, as Germany's UN envoy, Harald Braun, put it, would "reassure the world that Iran's nuclear programme served exclusively peaceful purposes". Painstakingly negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers, the deal imposed an unprecedentedly intrusive and exhaustive inspection regime on Iran's nuclear activities in return for the lifting of international sanctions that had devastated the country's economy, and with it the livelihood of millions of ordinary Iranians.The world - save the usualtrigger-happy statesmen in Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Washington - could finally breathe a sigh of relief that a futile and catastrophic confrontation with Iran, one that would have made Iraq and Afghanistan look like brag-worthy success stories, was averted. The tired and unattainable agenda of regime change was at long last relinquished in favour of cooperation with Iran to jointly tackle the metastasising threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

So diffused were tensions between Iran and the US that even the capture of American sailors in Iranian waters - which could once escalate into a fully-fledged diplomatic crisis of monumental proportions - could now be resolved over a phone call between US and Iranian officials. (Some may recall the international fiasco that ensued the 2007 arrest of UK sailors in Iranian waters.) Furthermore, this multilateral experiment had revived hope for other non-proliferation regimes to follow suit. If it worked with Iran, why ca not it work with North Korea, Pakistan, or - dare we suggest - Israel? The cosmopolitan visionpromoted by the JCPOA, as well as its import for global security, is reflected in the words of EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, who described the deal as "a milestone for non-proliferation, making everyone more secure in the region, in Europe, and in the worldthe deal now belongs to the entire international community - not only to us who were in that [negotiating] room".

But perhaps the most telling testament to the JCPOA's significance for global security was its enshrinement in a resolution unanimously adopted by all fifteen members of the UN Security Council, including the US.

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