Dealing with North Korea: The Iranian lesson
North Korea's growing nuclear threats and the proposed economic sanctions to pressure Kim Jong-un to negotiations are in the news. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to send "a message" to Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. This message calls, again, for tightening economic sanctions on companies dealing with North Korea.
President Trump, who expressed willingness to meet with Kim, probably thought his statement would help appease the unpredictable North Korean dictator. But why was this self-proclaimed artful dealer in a hurry to propose negotiations? After all, we tried negotiations with another dangerous country, and it didn't work so well – as Trump himself once was all too quick to acknowledge.
Speaking of which, President Trump did not "rip up" Obama's "really, really bad deal" with Iran. Iran did not sign the deal, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is allowed only limited inspections. Nonetheless, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced: "Iran is compliant through April 18 with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," thus continuing the charade of allowing the Iranians to advance their nuclear agenda.
Iran could be complying with the limited inspections of its nuclear program facilities. But the Geneva agreement did not demand that Iran stop all of its uranium enrichment programs and nuclear physics research, in return for lifting U.S. and Western sanctions. Moreover, Iran has never allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection of all its nuclear sites and repeatedly stated that it would not allow this. So while Sec. Tillerson stated, "The nuclear deal failed to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran. [and] the Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to future administrations on Iran," it is naïve and unrealistic to expect the U.S. to force Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons agenda.
Even if the Trump administration called for more sanctions, the Europeans would not impose them. Their short-term financial gains in dealing with Iran negate the long-term nuclear threat. Besides, Iran's enemy list includes Israel, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia. Europe is not on it.
Obama never made Iran's support of terrorism or its collaboration with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missiles programs part of the Iran deal. All but forgotten was North Korea's plutonium production reactor in Syria at Al Kibar, which was built in complete violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and destroyed by the Israeli Air Force. Iran's ballistic missile development that was founded on the North Korean model (the Iranian Shahab is the North Korean Nodong, just like Pakistan's nuclear-tipped Ghauri missile is) was also overlooked
The Obama administration deliberately ignored Iran's collaboration with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles research and development. The exchange of nuclear weapons test data from Pyongyang to Iran for some of the Euros Iran has received from Obama for pretending to abide by the deal, plus Iranian oil and gas, completes the package.
The U.S. and the international community had Iran on the ropes with tough sanctions and the threat of tougher sanctions. But Obama threw that away for Iran's promises to play nice for ten years, though the evidence is that the Iranians never stopped cheating.
While the U.S. is quick to credit North Korea with a full deck of nuclear weapons capabilities, it keeps saying Iran is years away from any such capability thanks to the deal. Trump advisers should know better.
The Trump administration's ability to curb Iran's nuclear weapons after infamous deal is limited. It should refrain from offering similar concessions just for a deal's sake to North Korea.