op-ed

Trump Critics Cannot Make Up Their Minds On North Korea And Iran

Reuters collage

Peter Huessy Mitchell Institute On Aerospace Studies

Harsh Trump administration critics cannot seem to make up their minds on Korea or Iran.

We are told that although Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in good faith (actually, no one signed the deal), we need to keep it in place because everyone knows that Iran will cheat. But if we know Iran will cheat and the provisions of the JCPOA are necessary to be kept in place to prevent that cheating, why are we perfectly happy to have many multiple provisions of the agreement suddenly expire in 2026, just eight years from today?

Similarly, if Iran gets to keep most off its nuclear program instead of giving it up completely, then why can’t North Korea insist on the same kind of deal—keep most of what they have, freeze it temporarily, but then have the freedom to pursue nuclear weapons as they want a decade or so hence?

The Trump administration is regularly ridiculed, lambasted, criticized and taunted for having the audacity to require that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran agree to verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, respectively, and normalize relations only when their governments adopt normal policies in how they deal with the world, rather than the policies of terrorism, missile threats and jihad.

It is as if Bill Clinton and the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Bush administration’s Six-Party Talks and the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” all secretly rejected but pretended to adhere to the fundamental principle that the DPRK would not get or keep any nuclear weapons whatsoever.

And the reference to the Libya solution by John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, was spot on: denuclearization in 2006 meant the agreed-upon (and successful) elimination of all of Libya’s nuclear program, not just a part the government might have decided they wanted to give up.

Of course, both Iran and North Korea want to either keep their nuclear programs and weapons, respectively, and know they are boxed in given their truculent opposition to doing what is right.

Here, the political landscape is ironic in the extreme. Hundreds of American news commentaries, op-eds, essays, editorials, TV shows, and political speeches have featured the endless repetition of the exact talking points of the mullahs and the North Korean communists.

But, notice the glaring contradictions in these arguments.

First, the North Korean talking points are:

  • The United States’ hostile policy requires the DPRK to have nuclear weapons (see “the invasion” of  Libya and Iraq);
  • getting rid of the DPRK nuclear weapons is not verifiable;
  • pressure and sanctions will not work against the DPRK because “they will eat grass” before they will give up their nuclear weapons; and the best of all,
  • denuclearization of the DPRK is not really denuclearization of the DPRK.

Second, the Iran talking points are precisely the opposite!

  • Despite the United States’ hostile policy, the Iranian mullahs graciously signed off on the JCPOA;
  • stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons — which they implicitly have the right to have because of America’s hostile policy — is, indeed, verifiable under the JCPOA;
  • pressure and sanctions did work to get Iran to sign the JPCOA, and economic pressure can snap back immediately if Iran goes wobbly; and
  • denuclearization in Iran really is denuclearization of Iran (even though, wink, wink, the mullahs get to keep what general Hayden calls an industrial strength nuclear program from which they could break out and build nuclear weapons in a matter of a few weeks or months.)

So, which is it, critics? Is the United States’ hostile policy the problem? Is a goal of zero rogue state nukes impossible or possible? Do sanctions work or not work? And shouldn’t denuclearization be real de-nuclearization?

What the Trump administration has done, brilliantly, is fully illustrate under the glare of the lights-of-a-peace-through-strength policy the complete fallacy of the previous decades-long pretend-search for an Iran and North Korea without nuclear weapons, and the implementation of policies we, as a country, knew were not going to work and were a sham.

Peter Huessy has spent the past 38 years consulting with consecutive presidential administrations, the U.S. Air Force and the Nuclear Aerospace industry. He is now the director of strategic deterrent studies at the Mitchell Institute of the Air Force Association.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.