What will Trump do about the Iran nuclear deal?

US President Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

All the indications are that President Trump will refuse to recertify the present Iran nuclear deal some time before the due date of 15 October. This would light a fuse that could potentially explode the agreement. It raises questions about how Iran will respond. And it creates huge diplomatic difficulties between the US and many of its key European allies who wholeheartedly back the deal.

The agreement, negotiated with Iran by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council together with Germany and the European Union, was reached in July 2015. Its aim was to ensure that Iran's nuclear programme was entirely peaceful.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), began to be implemented in January 2016. In return for the progressive lifting of a range of economic sanctions, Iran halted some of its activities and reduced others within strict limits, all open to verification by international inspectors.

There are four crucial things to remember about the deal.

It was not perfect.

Military escalation

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Nobel peace prize: Ican award sends nuclear message

  • 6 October 2017
  • From the section World
North Korea Hwasong 12 missile launch Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korea has been testing missiles that it hopes will carry a nuclear warhead

The Nobel Committee's decision to honour the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known as Ican, provides a powerful and timely reinforcement of the opprobrium and concern that should be attached to nuclear weapons.

It comes at a moment when North Korea is actively developing its nuclear programme, the fate of the Iran nuclear deal is in the balance, and the US and Russia are both actively seeking to modernise their nuclear forces.

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What will happen to the Iran nuclear deal?

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters Image copyright Getty Images

The fate of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the major world powers is in the balance.

The deal, which came into effect in October 2015, (known by the cumbersome title of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), imposed constraints on Tehran's nuclear activities, in return for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

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Zapad: What can we learn from Russia's latest military exercise?

  • 20 September 2017
  • From the section Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), accompanied by Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, watches the joint Belarus-Russian Zapad-2017 military exercises Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption What did the joint Belarus-Russian Zapad exercises reveal about President Putin's military strategy?

For all the Western concern about Russia's Zapad military exercises, they nonetheless offer a rare insight into developments in the Russian military at a time of significant change.

As one of the leading Western analysts of Russian military developments, Roger McDermott, says, "while Russia's armed forces' leadership remain very interested in military theory, they test and rehearse new approaches to warfare in strategic exercises".

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What are North Korea's other WMDs?

  • 15 September 2017
  • From the section Asia
Passersby walk in front of a TV screen reporting news about North Korea"s missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, September 15, 2017. Image copyright Reuters

The warning from the South Korean President Moon Jae-in of the potential threat from North Korean chemical and biological weapons is timely, underscoring that Pyongyang has invested heavily in a variety of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes.

Mr Moon also warned of the danger of a North Korean electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could cripple a country's electrical grid and critical infrastructure.

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Can the world live with a nuclear North Korea?

  • 30 August 2017
  • From the section Asia
People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korean missile launch Image copyright Getty Images

This is, by any standards, the most provocative of North Korea's recent missile tests.

Launching a rocket over Japanese territory - with at least the possibility that it could break up and deposit debris on Japanese soil - shows that Pyongyang is intent on maintaining its brinkmanship - this was only the third missile test to over-fly Japan within the past two decades. However, this may perhaps be brinkmanship only to a point.

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Trump rhetoric versus Afghan reality

US President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Donald Trump did not say how many additional troops he would send to Afghanistan

After some 16 years, the battle for Afghanistan - America's longest running war - is going to get a whole lot longer.

This was the essential message from President Donald Trump's address. His stress on abandoning timetables and moving to a "conditions-based approach" as he called it, means that US troops will be in Afghanistan for a considerable time to come.

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US and Russia's diplomatic spat: Carving out an uncertain path

  • 31 July 2017
  • From the section Europe
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July, 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Russia's President Vladimir Putin appears to have hoped for a reset in relations after Donald Trump won power

Russia's decision to significantly reduce the number of US diplomatic staff marks the end of any immediate hope for a fresh start between Moscow and Washington. Indeed, it could usher in a new and uncertain period of competition between the two capitals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin seized upon US President Donald Trump's election victory as offering the potential for a very different relationship.

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Nato sends 'alive and strong' message from Estonia

  • 10 July 2017
  • From the section Europe
British soldiers during the official ceremony welcoming the deployment of a multi-national Nato battalion in Tapa, Estonia, on 20 April Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK commands the Nato battle group in Estonia

The Estonian town of Tapa is about an hour and half's drive eastwards from the capital Tallinn. Tapa owes its existence to the fact that it sits at an important railway junction. It bears all the hallmarks of an old Soviet garrison town - there was indeed a Russian air base here during the Cold War.

But today, sitting less than 150km (93 miles) from the Russian border, it is the base for a Nato battle group - here, according to the alliance, to reassure the Estonians and to demonstrate Nato's solidarity to Moscow.

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North Korean missiles: Can the US defend itself?

North Korean TV releases photos of purported ICBM test launch Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korean state TV released photos of the purported ICBM test launch

Whatever the precise range and capability of North Korea's latest ballistic missile test, there is no doubt that it is making steady progress towards its goal of having a nuclear-capable missile, able to threaten the continental US.

That term "nuclear capable" is important. Pyongyang must both miniaturise a nuclear warhead to fit on the head of a missile and be able to protect it against all the buffeting and forces as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere.

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