Iran-US deal: A model of trust-building?

The world needed this. On Monday, just as 193 nations were convening for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the United States and Iran displayed a prime example of trust-building. The two countries, whose officials rarely talk to each other, completed a prisoner swap deal and a transfer of about $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue for Tehran to use on humanitarian goods.

Whether the agreement proves wise for peace remains to be seen. Yet it was wise for Iran and the U.S. to figure out – through facilitators such as Oman and Qatar – how to negotiate in good faith, relying on traits of authenticity and transparency, and a concern for each other’s interests. They focused on what unites them.

In a world now as polarized as it was during the Cold War, such bridge-building can inspire more examples of cooperation anchored on trust. In fact, the theme of the U.N. General Assembly’s 78th session is “rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity.” Without a reversal of a worldwide loss of trust in institutions, the international community may be unable to do much on climate change, poverty, conflicts, or pandemics.