In 2007, the late Meir Dagan, then head of the Mossad, alerted the U.S. that North Korea was building a nuclear reactor in Syria; Israel then destroyed the reactor before it became operational. Had it not done so, writes John Hannah, Islamic State might already be in possession of Syrian-made nuclear weapons. But, Hannah continues, North Korea still remains interested in selling its nuclear technology to the most malign forces in the Middle East, a possibility made only worse by the American deal with Iran:
The fact is that the United States dodged a bullet in Syria—and, it’s worth stressing, all courtesy of the Israelis. . . . While [that reactor] may have been the most egregious case of North Korean proliferation, it was hardly unique. North Korea has for decades sold missiles and missile technology to any state willing to pay. . . . The military relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in particular, has been longstanding and deep, commencing in the 1980s and continuing to the present. Virtually all of Iran’s most important nuclear-capable missile platforms can in fact be sourced to North Korean technology.
Importantly, Pyongyang’s proliferation bazaar has been open not only to states, but to dangerous non-state actors as well. Iran’s most deadly terrorist proxy, Lebanese Hizballah, has also been an important recipient of North Korean military assistance. The North provided critical support to help Hizballah build a massive network of underground military installations, tunnels, bunkers, depots, and storage facilities in southern Lebanon. Moreover, North Korea has played a major role in building up Hizballah’s huge missile arsenal, sending rocket and missile components to Iran where they were assembled and then shipped to Hizballah for use against Israeli civilian targets. . . .
As a result of last summer’s nuclear deal, Iran is supposed to restrain its program for the next decade or so, while submitting to greater international scrutiny on its territory. In exchange, it will get tens of billions of dollars in cash and the ability once again to sell as much oil as it can on international markets. For its part, North Korea is cash- and oil-poor but under no such nuclear restrictions. On the contrary, it has spent the first four months of 2016 dramatically ramping up its efforts to improve its expanding nuclear deterrent. Indeed, the North is seeking to perfect precisely those elements of its military nuclear arsenal that Iran has yet to develop: the testing of an actual bomb, warhead miniaturization, reentry technology, and a functional ICBM.