Trump rampages in rhetoric. But for all his posturing, the Iran deal still stands – just

Donald Trump has taken a wild swing at his predecessor’s key foreign policy legacy, the milestone 2015 Iran nuclear accord. By refusing to “certify” Iran’s compliance, Mr Trump has set events on an unpredictable course. He had until 15 October to “certify” the deal’s implementation. He had done so twice already since coming to office. But this time, though nothing substantial has changed, he’s noisily refused. Does this matter? He cannot, alone, pull the US out of this deal but he has raised the spectre that this might happen “at any time”. He wants measures taken to counter Iran’s “destabilising actions”, and to “deny all paths to a nuclear weapon”, though without much clarity as to what this might entail. None of this contradicts the agreement formally, but it will all weaken it. Congress now has 60 days in which to decide whether to vote to reimpose sanctions whose lifting was a essential part of the quid pro quo contained in the agreement. Even if that happens, European allies who are party to the nuclear deal, along with Russia and China, have all clearly indicated they will act to preserve it.

The 2015 deal offered the best possible assurances that Iran’s nuclear military activities would be contained for roughly 10 years. It imposed strict international inspections, and provided strong incentives through sanctions relief. By defusing the nuclear crisis, it helped consolidate the more pragmatic or moderate factions within Iran’s power structures. It has deprived Israel’s leader of a pretext to threaten Iran with military strikes. It has helped to prevent the arms race in the Middle East from taking on entirely new proportions.

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