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While the world frets over North Korea, what to do about Iran also causes headaches

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14.09.2017

While North Korea’s reckless behavior in pursuit of a nuclear weapons program has diverted international attention in recent weeks, another crisis-in-the-making should be regarded with equal concern.

What the world does not need right now is another nuclear crisis on top of efforts to build a global consensus to deal with North Korean brinkmanship.

And yet that is what is at risk from a policy tug-of-war in the Trump administration between those who believe Iran is living up to its obligations – however imperfectly – under a 2015 agreement to freeze its nuclear program and those who want to toughen its provisions.

President Trump himself has described the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a centrepiece of his predecessor’s foreign policy – as the “worst deal ever”.

Under a Congressional mandate, the administration is obliged to certify the agreement every 90-days. On the advice of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump has done this twice, but a festering issue has bubbled to the surface ahead of the next certification deadline on October 15.

Administration hawks are pushing for a renegotiation of the original agreement, something that Iran would almost certainly resist, along with other parties to the deal.

These include, apart from the US, the remaining four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. China and Russia could be expected to be especially resistant.

Any US action to withhold certification or seek to alter the terms of the JCPOA risks prompting an international crisis in which Washington would find itself isolated from its natural allies. And all this at a moment when global consensus is required to deal with North Korea.

Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, might be pressuring Washington to toughen........

© The Conversation