Reuters reports, “North Korea renewed a threat on Saturday to conduct a nuclear test amid heightened concern that the reclusive state with a stockpile of missiles may set off an atomic device for the fourth time on the path to building a nuclear arsenal.” The U.S. response? “The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of its allies and continues to coordinate closely with both the Republic of Korea and Japan,” bleats a National Security Council spokesman. Feel safer knowing that the Obama administration is monitoring, coordinating and remaining steadfast? Granted, it seems a lot like capitulation and paralysis.
Agreements with closed societies are, we know, of dubious value. Moreover, the threat from Iran, which pledges to destroy Israel and acts as the patron for flocks of terrorists, is infinitely more serious than a nuclear-capable North Korea, especially when one considers the arms race that a nuclear Iran will set off in the Middle East. Plainly, there are a great number of people who suspect a North Korea-type deal is in the offing. We ease sanctions and look the other way on terrorism and the rogue state pretends to “freeze” or reduce its illicit weapons program.
There is good reason to suspect that Iran in no way contemplates taking itself out of the race for a nuclear bomb. The Times of Israel reports:
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country will go back to producing 20 percent enriched uranium “whenever necessary” and won’t back down from achieving its nuclear goals, Iran’s Mehr News agency reported on Sunday. Iran will not accept “nuclear apartheid” but is willing to offer more transparency over its atomic activities, Rouhani declared ahead of new talks with world powers. The limiting of production and stockpiles of 20% uranium is a key demand from Western powers seeking to curb Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran and the P5+1 group of nations will start hammering out a draft accord Tuesday aimed at ending a decade-long stand-off over suspicions that the Islamic republic is concealing military objectives. “We have nothing to put on the table and offer to them but transparency. That’s it. Our nuclear technology is not up for negotiation,” Rouhani, referring to the West, said in remarks broadcast on state television. “Iran will not retreat one step in the field of nuclear technology… we will not accept nuclear apartheid,” he said.
It sure doesn’t seem like there is a meeting of the minds.
However, well aware that the Obama administration is desperate to avoid the umpteenth foreign policy failure and to fend off calls for harsher action, Israeli officials and many U.S. lawmakers and experts suspect that there will be some deal papering over the vast gulf between the sides. Iran then will be that much closer to obtaining its nuclear weapons capability with the cloud of economic sanctions or military strike greatly diminished.
It is therefore not surprising that on a visit to Japan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly makes the comparison between North Korea and Iran: “We’re both democratic, progress, technological societies. You face North Korea, which is a rogue regime with nuclear weapons. We face the possibility of Iran, which is a rogue regime that wants to have nuclear weapons. They’re cooperating between them, and we should cooperate between us.”
Three things stand in the way of a North Korea-type deal — Congress (which the administration concedes would have to lift sanctions), Sunni Arab leaders (who loudly balked at the interim deal and have as much reason to dread a nuclear-ready Iran as Israel does) and Iran itself, which may see no need to give up anything, even enough for a phony agreement designed to hold Israel at bay. And if the Senate flips to a GOP majority, we might even see additional sanctions, which is likely to be the last opportunity short of military action to enforce the policy of three presidents. Three U.S. presidents, including the current one, have insisted Iran cannot be allowed to become, well, to become exactly what North Korea has become, but in a much more dangerous part of the world and under a fanatical Islamist regime.