How the Singapore Summit Could Affect North Korea’s Relationship with Iran

July 10 2018

At their meeting in June, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un reached a tentative agreement for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program, although not only do many details remain to be worked out but it is not even clear that the initial agreement will endure. Dany Shoham considers what impact these negotiations might have on Iran’s longstanding alliance with North Korea, which is based largely on sharing military technology:

Surreptitious Iranian-North Korean cooperation has a long history. Its main component is close technological cooperation in the fields of missiles and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Each country has its own know-how that it contributes to that cooperation. Iran substantially foots the bill. . . .

How will Iranian-North Korean [relations] change [in the wake of a Washington-Pyongyang thaw]? First, [the two rogue regimes are] likely to strengthen their counterintelligence capabilities in order to maintain covert reciprocal activities. North Korean know-how regarding unconventional weapons—know-how that has not yet passed to Iran—will presumably be transferred. Iran might try hard to get Pyongyang to convey to Iran, rather than declare, any elite North Korean personnel and as yet undeclared critical technological components—and possibly actual weaponry—currently in North Korean facilities. Existing joint programs concerning missiles, particularly those designed to carry unconventional warheads, might be relocated in part to Iran. . . .

Iran has much to lose if North Korea entirely meets the requirements likely to be imposed by the U.S. and will endeavor to hamper any such development. The American-North Korean-Iranian triangle . . . has far-reaching strategic ramifications. The dynamics underlying it have two elements: the visible element of the recently established relationship between Pyongyang and Washington and the largely invisible element of Pyongyang’s long relationship with Tehran. The first element will be influenced by China, and perhaps also by Russia—but the second will retain its autonomy, its clandestine nature, and possibly its inaccessibility. This is a matter of serious concern, as Iran stands to be endowed with rescued North Korean assets. . . .

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More about: Chemical weapons, Donald Trump, Iran, 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