For a presidential lame duck, Barack Obama had a pretty good year in 2015, and nowhere more so than on foreign policy.
The historic, multilateral deal with Iran to limit and ensure transparent oversight of its nuclear fuel enrichment program was the president’s highpoint, the culmination of a six-year strategy to isolate Iran, diplomatically and economically, and force the country to the table to negotiate. The agreement provides a huge boost to global nonproliferation efforts and represents the realization of Obama’s oft-stated goal to dramatically reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.
The Iran nuclear agreement, however, may in time be surpassed by the COP21 Paris climate change pact announced in December, which represents the most consequential effort in history to ameliorate the impact of global warming. Obama pushed hard for the deal, and set the stage for a successful outcome in Paris by reaching an agreement with China at the end of 2014 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the Paris deal to be successful, it will still have to be followed up by concrete efforts to meet emission targets. Nonetheless, the pact provides the best hope possible for preventing catastrophic global warming.