What Iran Learned from North Korea about Nuclear Weapons

Sept. 7 2017

As North Korea has become ever bolder in showing off its ability to create nuclear weapons, writes Anthony Ruggiero, Tehran has been watching closely to see how it can emulate Pyongyang’s success:

North Korea . . . authored the playbook now being used by Iran to fleece the United States and its allies. And if the United States fails to neutralize the North Korean threat, Iran will notice how the United States buckles in the face of nuclear pressure.

The Islamic Republic has already learned a number of damaging lessons from North Korea. First, cheating on nuclear deals is permitted. North Korea cheated twice, and we kept coming back for more. President Bill Clinton announced the 1994 Agreed Framework as a deal that would “freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program,” but Pyongyang violated the agreement when it started a covert uranium-enrichment program.

Washington tried another nuclear deal with the Kim regime, negotiating the 2005 Joint Statement, but North Korea built a nuclear reactor in Syria during the negotiations. The reactor was eventually destroyed by Israel in 2007. Normally that would have ended negotiations, proving that North Korea was not a serious interlocutor. Instead, the Kim regime was rewarded for its nuclear proliferation when the Bush administration removed it from the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list in 2008. . . .

The number of Iranian violations detailed by the UN secretary-general António Guterres in a recent report is stunning. Two Iranian attempts to procure missile components, aircraft parts, and anti-tank missile components from Ukraine were thwarted over a period of just six months. How many others have gotten through? Iran also continues its shipment of arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in violation of two UN Security Council resolutions. . . .

While Iran has learned many lessons from North Korea, Washington should have learned a few, too. The most significant is that flawed, limited nuclear deals do not solve strategic issues.

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More about: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Iran nuclear program, North Korea, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war