When It Comes to North Korea, Stopping Its Supply of Weapons to the Middle East Should Be a Priority

March 27 2018

In 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria that was a near-exact replica of a North Korean one and was manned by North Korean technicians; Iran’s most sophisticated missiles are variants of North Korean models; some of Syria’s chemical weapons were most likely developed with North Korean help as well. With Washington-Pyongyang talks expected to take place in the near future, writes Jay Solomon, the U.S. must pressure the Communist regime to cease providing such deadly weapons to rogue regimes:

On March 21, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a report calling for UN inspectors to visit a site near the western Syrian town of al-Qusayr, noting that the Assad regime may have built a uranium-enrichment facility there with Pyongyang’s assistance. . . . In a [separate], confidential report, UN inspectors describe how North Korean trade companies smuggled tons of industrial equipment into Syria in recent years for what appeared to be the construction of a new chemical-weapons production facility. . . .

U.S. defense officials are also worried that the North Koreans are learning from the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, perhaps in case they need to resort to chemical attacks if conflict breaks out on the Korean peninsula. Washington believes that Pyongyang is more than willing to use such weapons, claiming that VX nerve agent was the instrument of choice when Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination of his half-brother last year in Malaysia. . . .

North Korea and Iran have been cooperating on missile development since the 1980s, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. . . . To date, however, U.S., European, and UN officials say there is no smoking-gun evidence of nuclear cooperation between the two countries. . . .

According to current and former U.S. officials, however, it is unclear what the administration could offer Pyongyang in return for cutting off one of the country’s primary revenue sources. To be sure, North Korea is eager to roll back the punishing international sanctions, particularly those targeting its mineral and agricultural exports. . . . [But] the suspected depths of North Korea’s economic ills mean that Kim will likely continue marketing his wares to bad actors in the Middle East, unless President Trump proves willing or able to offer him a sufficiently enticing alternative.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Chemical weapons, Iran, North Korea, Nuclear proliferation, Syria, 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