When you compare North Korea and Iran there seems to be little that connects the two rogue nations except a strict adherence to human rights abuses, but the links and similarities between the two are disturbingly close and provide a foreshadowing of the path Iranian regime is headed on.
In many important ways, North Korea and the Iranian regime are kindred spirits. They are both governments built to consolidate power in the hands of a few elites and ruthlessly dedicated to eradicating all dissent.
Whereas North Korea’s Kim Jong-un had his future laid out for him by his grandfather and father in a kind of dynastic megalomaniacal family hand-me-down, Iran’s leadership has flowed from one scheming mullah to another in a religiously based enterprise with Ali Khamenei at the top of the pyramid.
Both regimes are totalitarian in the strictest sense, utilizing a system of government that includes firm backing from the military and a judicial system designed less for crime prevention than dissident detection.
Both regimes also heavily invest in their respective militaries, especially in developing weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems for them. In fact, the ties between the two are especially close in this area as intelligence agencies around the world have tracked the sale of North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile technology to Iran.
And just as North Korea threatens its neighbors such as Japan and the U.S. with multiple missile launches and test detonations of nuclear warheads, Iran also flexes its muscle with displays of missile launches, as well as direct intervention with its own troops in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
But North Korea is limited in many ways that Iran is not. The most significant being that North Korea’s economy is anemic compared to Iran’s with its oil wealth. This is why North Korea resorts to illicit activities such as cybercrime, counterfeiting and narcotics trafficking to raise money.
Iran by comparison has used its oil wealth to fund a massive military and prop up the Assad regime in Syria as well as fund the terrorist group Hezbollah and the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. Recent reports also show Iran’s military supplying terror cells in neighboring Gulf states such as Bahrain with explosives and funding.
Which is why Iran remains the most pressing and problematic rogue regime in the world today facing the U.S. Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post’s Right Turn column explored the strange relationship between North Korea, Iran and Syria and why the Iranian regime remains the most serious threat to regional security and global stability.
The esteemed historian Michael Oren recently wrote:
“The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognized that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed that these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.”
All those assumptions were wrong, according to Rubin.
Oren’s recommendations echo the suggestions of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and outside experts. (“The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and Congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror…”)
Congress and the Trump administration need to move expeditiously on sanctions, Rubin said.
“On one hand, we are properly worried over Syria and North Korea. On the other hand, our current policy toward Iran, a much greater threat, is such that we are helping to rebuild and enrich a country that is supporting Assad, is exporting terrorism, is fomenting regional chaos and — even without cheating — can eventually obtain nuclear weapons. We are concerned about North Korea’s puny and inept ballistic missile program but have done nothing since pinprick sanctions to respond to Iran’s illegal missile tests. We have lots of challenges to address, to be sure, but we shouldn’t take our eyes off of the worst and most dangerous rogue state,” she added.
Rubin correctly points out that the nuclear agreement forged by the Obama administration has helped strengthen the Iranian regime at a time when it was in very serious danger of collapsing from the weight of supporting Assad in Syria, while also faced with plunging global oil prices that could have bankrupted the ruling theocracy.
This theme of North Korean lessons for Iran was carried by famed human rights attorney Alan Dershowitz in a piece for the Gatestone Institute.
“The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power is that we MUST stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interests than a nuclear North Korea. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores,” Dershowitz writes.
The deal signed by Iran in 2015 postpones Iran’s quest for a nuclear arsenal, but it doesn’t prevent it, despite Iran’s unequivocal statement in the preamble to the agreement that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added). Recall that North Korea provided similar assurances to the Clinton Administration back in 1994, only to break them several years later — with no real consequences. The Iranian mullahs apparently regard their reaffirmation as merely hortatory and not legally binding. The body of the agreement itself — the portion Iran believes is legally binding — does not preclude Iran from developing nuclear weapons after a certain time, variously estimated as between 10 to 15 years from the signing of the agreement. Nor does it prevent Iran from perfecting its delivery systems, including nuclear tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States,” he adds.
It is not a coincidence that both North Korea and Iran held massive military parades in a show of force in an effort to rattle the saber to a Trump administration that has made it clear it is NOT the Obama administration.
Both regimes are controlled by power-crazed men with homicidal tendencies. It will be a hazardous path to navigate for President Trump, but confronting Iran forcefully now will assuredly head off worse problems down the road; a bitter lesson we have learned from the Obama administration’s policies of appeasement.