President Donald Trump’s handling of the North Korean nuclear crisis has far reaching implications for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran and North Korea have cooperated in their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in the past and are both rogue regimes aligned against the west. Iran, however, entered into the 2015 nuclear deal with a U.S.-led international coalition, which prohibits its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief. The U.S. believes Iran is technically complying with the nuclear deal but continues to protest the regime’s malign activity in the Middle East.
North Korea conversely has largely been impervious to international sanctions and continued its nuclear program for nearly two decades. The U.S. intelligence community now believes “North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” The Washington Post reported Tuesday citing a recent intelligence assessment. The intelligence community’s assessment may mean North Korea is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.
The recent intelligence assessment has lead some experts to call for accepting North Korea as a nuclear armed state. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper endorsed this position on CNN Tuesday evening saying “we need to have dialogue with them. But accept the fact they are a nuclear power.”
Acceptance of North Korea’s nuclear status could, however, signal to Iran that the best way to attain its desired status is to pursue its nuclear weapons program and force the U.S. to accept it. “Acceptance could lead to more nuclear-armed states and ever greater chances that one will use the weapons,” Mark Bowden for The Atlantic recently noted.
“You never want to abandon [denuclearization] as your goal. If you abandon it, you are accepting North Korea into the brotherhood of nuclear nations, then you’ve just abandoned the nonproliferation treaty, you’ve just abandoned arms control,” Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch and now a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That sends dangerous signals to other nuclear aspirants, such as Iran.”
“Forfeiting the campaign against North Korea will signal that nuclear weapons are not a risk for the regime but rather offer assurances against external threats,” Tufts University international relations scholar Avner Golov noted Wednesday. Golov continued that “failure against Pyongyang may be a prelude to a more challenging threat from Tehran.”
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