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

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy