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a) Deal breaker: on the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Iran deal

President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal is a huge setback to multilateral diplomacy and the rules-based international order. The agreement, signed in 2015 by Iran with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and the EU, curtailed its nuclear programme in return for withdrawing economic sanctions. It was reached after 18 months of painful negotiations. Under the deal, most of Iran’s enriched uranium was shipped out of the country, a heavy water facility was rendered inoperable and the operational nuclear facilities were brought under international inspection. In Iran, the moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani went ahead with the deal despite strong opposition from hardliners. Mr. Trump has just wrecked all these efforts, despite numerous reports, including from American intelligence agencies, that Iran is 100% compliant with the terms of the agreement. When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is formally called, was signed, many had raised doubts about whether Iran could be trusted to comply with the terms. Three years later, unfortunately, it’s the U.S., which had initiated talks with Iran under the previous administration, that has acted in bad faith. Mr. Trump’s decision is not about nuclear weapons. If his administration was actually concerned about Iran acquiring them, it would have supported a deal that closes the path towards nuclear weapons for Iran. Instead, the bigger concern for Mr. Trump as well as Washington’s closest allies in West Asia — Israel and Saudi Arabia — is Iran’s re-accommodation in the global economic mainstream. They fear that if Iran’s economic profile rises, it will embolden it to increase its regional presence, posing a strategic threat to the interests of the U.S.-Saudi-Israel axis. This crisis of trust could have been avoided had the Trump administration built on the goodwill created during the Obama years. Mr. Trump has always been a critic of the Iran deal, and the Islamic Republic in general. Now, by pulling out of the deal he has manufactured a crisis in an already tumultuous region. The U.S. action doesn’t necessarily trigger an immediate collapse of the agreement. For now, Europe, Russia and China remain committed to it. Iran has responded cautiously, with the Foreign Minister saying he will engage diplomatically with the remaining signatories. But the challenges will emerge, not only for Europe but also for other nations with strong trade ties with Iran, including India, once American sanctions are in place. The U.S. stands isolated in its decision. But the question is whether Europe and other powers will stick together to respect the mandate of an international agreement, or buckle under American pressure. If they do cave in, West Asia will be a lot more dangerous.

b) Drowning in dust: dealing with extreme weather

A wave of extreme weather over northern States in India has killed at least 124 people and caused much misery, mostly in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The residents of this ‘weather hotspot’ region is used to annual storms carrying natural dust clouds in the pre-monsoon season, from the Thar desert and further west. But they have been hit by a particularly destructive version this year, one that combined hot western winds and moisture from the east. Record April temperatures in parts of Pakistan, at one place exceeding 50°C, are thought to have added to the ferocity of the dust-laden winds. This could be a recurring feature, and there is a need to develop accurate forecasting methods and protocols to mitigate the impact. Many of the casualties in the recent storms were caused by collapsing infrastructure, such as electricity transmission lines that were not built to withstand such weather. Good housing could have saved many. India’s vulnerability to such storms has always been underscored by scientific estimates of the flow of aerosols, or dust particles. Their presence in the country is three times the global average due to sheer abundance of mineral dust. There is also a body of research that points to altered climate patterns due to accumulation of dust particles, which affect even the Himalayan glaciers. Considering the large population in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, where the impact of weather on public health and agriculture is massive, the Central and State governments should do everything possible to cut loss of life and property. Globally, the major dust-producing regions pump 1,000-3,000 tera grams of particles into the atmosphere annually, with the Sahara alone responsible for a third of this, according to the UN Environment Programme. India is at the receiving end of winds from West Asia, although some scientists reported recently an overall reduction in dust volumes in the pre-monsoon season due to a pattern of increased rainfall. Even if that were to be true, unexpected surges such as the recent one pose a challenge. The Centre has to raise its game in forecasting, and broadcast early warnings. In fact, as the World Meteorological Organisation points out, clarity and frequency of warnings are key to saving lives. In the wake of the storm on May 2, State governments have blamed the India Meteorological Department for not providing clear warnings, while the IMD claims to have conveyed the forecast of the coming storm to the Centre several days ahead. This clearly points to lack of coordination, that affects disaster-preparedness. Millions of people who are in the path of extreme weather each year expect better from official agencies. On the ground, strong public infrastructure and adequate capacity among administrators and personnel to handle rescue and rehabilitation must be ensured.


1) Unilaterally

Meaning: Used to indicate that something is done by only one person, group, or country involved in a situation, without the agreement of others.

Example: “in 1996 the region unilaterally declared independence”

2) Setback

Meaning: A reversal or check in progress.

Example: “a serious setback for the peace process”

Synonyms: Problem, Difficulty

Antonyms: Breakthrough

3) Curtailed

Meaning: Reduce in extent or quantity; impose a restriction on.

Example: “civil liberties were further curtailed”

Synonyms: Reduce, Cut

Antonyms: Increase, Lengthen

4) Withdrawing

Meaning: Remove or take away (something) from a particular place or position.

Example: “Ruth withdrew her hand from his”

Synonyms: Remove, Extract

Antonyms: Insert

5) Negotiations

Meaning: Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

Example: “a worldwide ban is currently under negotiation”

Synonyms: Conference, Debate

6) Enriched

Meaning: Improve or enhance the quality or value of.

Example: “her exposure to museums enriched her life in France”

Synonyms: Enhance, Reinforce

Antonyms: Spoil, Devalue

7) Shipped out

Meaning: To send something away from somewhere to somewhere else.

Example: The timber is shipped out of the stockyard by truck.

8) Rendered

Meaning: Provide or give (a service, help, etc.).

Example: “money serves as a reward for services rendered”

Synonyms: Provide, Give

9) Hardliners

Meaning: A member of a group, typically a political group, who adheres uncompromisingly to a set of ideas or policies.

Example: “neither hardliners nor reformers would be likely to want him as their leader”

10) Wrecked

Meaning: Spoil completely.

Example: “an eye injury wrecked his chances of a professional career”

Synonyms: Ruin, Spoil

Antonyms: Facilitate

11) Comply

Meaning: Act in accordance with a wish or command.

Example: “we are unable to comply with your request”

Synonyms: Observe, Obey

Antonyms: Ignore, Disobey

12) Bad faith

Meaning: Intent to deceive.

Example: “the Republicans accused the Democrats of negotiating in bad faith”

13) Acquiring

Meaning: Buy or obtain (an asset or object) for oneself.

Example: “I managed to acquire all the books I needed”

Synonyms: Obtain, Receive

Antonyms: Lose

14) Allies

Meaning: A person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity.

Example: “he was forced to dismiss his closest political ally”

Synonyms: Associate, Friend

Antonyms: Enemy, Opponent

15) Embolden

Meaning: Give (someone) the courage or confidence to do something.

Example: “emboldened by the claret, he pressed his knee against hers”

Synonyms: Encourage, Hearten

Antonyms: Dishearten, Discourage

16) Posing

Meaning: Present or constitute (a problem or danger).

Example: “the sheer number of visitors is posing a threat to the area”

Synonyms: Constitute, Present

17) Goodwill

Meaning: Friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude.

Example: “the scheme is dependent on goodwill between the two sides”

Synonyms: Compassion, Consideration

Antonyms: Hostility

18) Pulling out

Meaning: To stop being involved in an activity.

Example: Lack of funding leaves us with no choice but to pull out.

19) Tumultuous

Meaning: Excited, confused, or disorderly.

Example: “a tumultuous crowd”

Synonyms: Tempestuous, Stormy

Antonyms: Peaceful, Uneventful

20) Engage

Meaning: Participate or become involved in.

Example: “organizations engage in a variety of activities”

Synonyms: Undertake, Involved

21) Signatories

Meaning: A party that has signed an agreement, especially a state that has signed a treaty.

Example: “Britain is a signatory to the convention”

22) Stick

Meaning: Accept or tolerate (an unpleasant or unwelcome person or situation).

Example: “I can’t stick Geoffrey—he’s a real old misery”

Synonyms: Tolerate, Take

23) Buckle Under

Meaning: To be defeated by a difficult situation.

Example: But these were difficult times and a lesser man would have buckled under the strain.

24) Cave in

Meaning: Capitulate or submit under pressure.

Example: “the manager caved in to his demands”

Synonyms: Yield, Surrender

25) Misery

Meaning: A state or feeling of great physical or mental distress or discomfort.

Example: “a man who had brought her nothing but misery”

Synonyms: Unhappiness, Distress

Antonyms: Contentment, Pleasure

26) Destructive

Meaning: Causing great and irreparable damage.

Example: “the destructive power of weapons”

Synonyms: Devastating, Ruinous

Antonyms: Non-violent, Creative

27) Ferocity

Meaning: The state or quality of being ferocious.

Example: “the ferocity of the storm caught them by surprise”

Synonyms: Savagery, Brutality

Antonyms: Gentleness

28) Recurring

Meaning: Occur again periodically or repeatedly.

Example: “when the symptoms recurred, the doctor diagnosed something different”

Synonyms: Reoccur, Return

29) Mitigate

Meaning: Make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful.

Example: “drainage schemes have helped to mitigate this problem”

Synonyms: Alleviate, Reduce

Antonyms: Aggravate, Increase

30) Collapsing

Meaning: (of a structure) suddenly fall down or give way.

Example: “the roof collapsed on top of me”

Synonyms: Crumple, Subside

31) Withstand

Meaning: Remain undamaged or unaffected by; resist.

Example: “the structure had been designed to withstand winds of more than 100 mph”

Synonyms: Resist, Oppose

Antonyms: Surrender, Yield

32) Vulnerability

Meaning: The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Example: “conservation authorities have realized the vulnerability of the local population”

33) Underscored

Meaning: To emphasize the importance something.

Example: The need for fire detectors in cargo bays was underscored by some accidents in the 1980s.

34) Abundance

Meaning: The state or condition of having a copious quantity of something; plentifulness.

Example: “vines and figs grew in abundance”

Synonyms: Infinity, Opulence

Antonyms: Lack, Scarcity

35) Accumulation

Meaning: A mass or quantity of something that has gradually gathered or been acquired.

Example: “the accumulation of paperwork on her desk”

Synonyms: Collection, Gathering

Antonyms: Dissipation

36) Blamed

Meaning: Feel or declare that (someone or something) is responsible for a fault or wrong.

Example: “the inquiry blamed the train driver for the accident”

Synonyms: Criticize, Inculpate

Antonyms: Absolve, Forgive

37) Conveyed

Meaning: Make (an idea, impression, or feeling) known or understandable.

Example: “the real virtues and diversity of America had never been conveyed in the movies”

Synonyms: Project, Exude

38) Rescue

Meaning: An act of saving or being saved from danger or difficulty.

Example: “the dramatic rescue of nine trapped coal miners”

Synonyms: Saving, Release

39) Rehabilitation

Meaning: The action of restoring something that has been damaged to its former condition.

Example: “the rehabilitation of the mangrove forests”

40) Ensured

Meaning: Make certain that (something) will occur or be the case.

Example: “the client must ensure that accurate records are kept”

Synonyms: Confirm, Secure


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