North Korea and Iran
The latest North Korean nuke test undoubtedly constituted a major morale-booster for Iran. It could not imagine a more uplifting object lesson.
Kim Yong-Nam arrives at NAM conference in Tehran Photo: REUTERS/Handout
The latest North Korean nuke test undoubtedly constituted a major morale-booster
for Iran. It could not imagine a more uplifting object lesson.
parallels between Tehran and Pyongyang are obvious – two rogue states that covet
nuclear weaponry, defy the rest of the world, are fired by extremist and
expansionist ideologies, conduct spurious negotiations and appear inured to
North Korea has been subjected to sanctions
longer than any other country. Yet the citizenry’s near-starvation is hardly the
highest priority for Pyongyang’s tyrants.
Tehran’s ayatollahs aren’t more
caring. Neither regime is likely to back down out of compassion for its
Moreover, the two collude chummily. North Korea has
assisted Iran’s nuclear program and Iranian scientists were invited to witness
the Korean tests. Pyongyang’s pattern of suckering the West is clearly not lost
Iranian uranium upgrading had proceeded steadily along while
its diplomats bought time in pseudo-negotiations.
round of futile talks is due to begin in Kazakhstan. US President Barack Obama
has decried the third North Korean nuclear test as “provocative,” while he
insists on pursuing a diplomatic solution with Pyongyang’s matching twin –
It is as if the North Korean and the Iranian sagas were played out
in separate, unconnected bubbles. It is as if the world’s democracies
deliberately don blinders. This is foolish. The Iranian plotline is closely
modeled on the North Korean precedent, where America’s failure was especially
Pyongyang had hoodwinked Washington, and Iran learned that it
is possible to get away with the most outrageous deceit. Indeed, it learns that
nuclear bombs can be used for extortion, that a nuclear power becomes
invulnerable to pressure and that it can impudently use its arsenal to demand
the removal of sanctions. Rather than deter Iran, the North Korean example
America assumed it had won North Korean cooperation for a
disarmament process after the first North Korean test in 2006. By 2008, though,
it became clear that the Yongbyon nuclear facility was again abuzz with
activity. After further haggling, another disarmament deal was struck in October
2008. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were to be allowed to
conduct forensic tests of nuclear materials. North Korea was removed from
America’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list.
But on May 25, 2009, North
Korea carried out another nuclear test, thereby thumbing its nose at the US.
This was followed up by long-range missile tests. The latest bomb tested can
reportedly be fitted into a missile’s warhead.
Now, as in 2009, the
singular consolation for Washington was that both Russia and China condemned the
Pyongyang insolence. But what of it? These two effectively breach the sanctions
against North Korea. Their attitude to the sanctions imposed on Tehran is almost
an exact replica.
So much for making progress on the diplomatic track and
avoiding confrontation at all cost. Rogue regimes regard Western lenience as
weakness, and the weak are humiliated. But it is not just a question of honor.
The safety of humanity as a whole has been severely compromised by irresolution
that can only be likened to pre- World War II appeasement.
nuclear technology is for sale and the identity of the highest bidder does not
matter. The nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed in Syria was a notable North
Korean export. Additionally, North Korean ballistic missiles are in the
unreliable hands of Iran, Egypt and teeter-tottering Syria, to name just a
It is hardly impossible that a variety of nuclear devices could find
their way to terrorist outfits such as Hezbollah or al-Qaida – either directly
of via fronts. No nation, anywhere, would be immune from the consequences. North
Korea had broadcast a video in which the flattening of New York City by nukes is
Pyongyang had no qualms about reneging on its obligations
almost as soon as seeming accommodation was reached. Iran is equally adept at
making mockery of Western envoys. Nonetheless, Obama apparently trusts that
suave diplomats can cool the Iranians’ ardor to harness nukes in the service of
The Korean genie can no longer be pushed back into the
bottle, but the Iranian genie has not yet fully sprung out.