The U.S.-Iran “agreement” of 2015—its genesis, the negotiations that led to it, and its likely consequences—is comprehensible only in terms of a set of ideas peculiar to the post-WWI era, which distinguishes it from previous historical examples.
Arms control agreements have become an accepted part of the diplomat’s toolkit. They’re taught in seminars at places like Johns Hopkins’ SAIS and Harvard’s Kennedy School; they’re name-checked alongside peace treaties and trade agreements as things diplomats do; negotiating and monitoring them is even a career track.
The history of arms control agreements is the history of violations. States sign agreements when they must, but break them when they wish. Secret violations are especially hard to monitor in dictatorships and closed societies.