The North Korea-Iran connection
As the world seeks to process the truce emanating from the Singapore meeting between two freewheeling leaders who recently exchanged threats to blow each other up, it’s clear that views of the outcome depend on one’s perspective. And not surprisingly, when it comes to President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there is a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism in the air.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew analogies to the Iran nuclear deal, noting that those who support Trump’s pledge to de-nuclearize North Korea should be supportive as well of the president’s efforts to ensure that Iran never has the capacity to produce nuclear arms. In noting that “the entire world” is praying for the success of the U.S.-North Korea talks and that “dangerous regimes should de-nuclearize,” Netanyahu speculated that while much of the international community may be in favor of a future deal, countries like South Korea and Japan, within missile range of North Korea, may be far more resistant. Similarly, he said, much of the world favored President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran while Israel and Saudi Arabia, likely targets of a nuclear Iran, strongly opposed it. “They will use [nuclear weapons] first against us,” Netanyahu told participants of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum meeting in Jerusalem this week.
Supporters of the Iran nuclear deal drew a different conclusion from the Singapore summit.
Anthony Blinken, who was a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, suggests that Trump “risks being hoisted by his own hyperbole.” Writing in The New York Times, he asserts that “by Mr. Trump’s own logic, any deal with the North has to be better, tougher, more comprehensive than the Iran accord,” and he says, “that outcome is highly unlikely.”
Blinken and other critics note that Trump called the Obama pact with Iran “the worst deal ever” in part because it would have expired over a period of 10 to 25 years. So a Trump deal presumably would not only eliminate North Korea’s current nuclear warheads, which are estimated to be at about 60, but prohibit further production forever — and end Pyongyang’s militaristic programs like providing weapons to Syria and its horrific violations of human rights. A tall order, indeed.
Some say Trump’s nixing the Iran deal proves to North Korea that an American agreement is not to be trusted. Others insist that Trump’s action against the Iran deal bolsters his position as a strict enforcer.
The arguments will go on and increase over the coming weeks and months. But for now, all Americans should hope for success in ridding the world of its most dangerous weapons from the hands of those who lead a regime based on terror and human suffering. n