How North Korea made the disastrous Iran deal inevitable

By any account, the Vienna negotiations were an unqualified success for Iran. The reason for that is simple: America’s failed bipartisan North Korean policy set a model for would-be proliferators on how to negotiate one’s way to a nuclear weapon

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North Korea blazed the trail
Michael_auslin
Michael Auslin
On 10 August 2015 05:01

The deal between Iran, the United States, and the European Union on Tehran’s nuclear program, if it becomes operationalized as scheduled, will ensure that Iran will have nuclear weapons by 2025, if not well before.

As Michael Mandelbaum has explained , the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to credibly threaten the use of force against Tehran resulted in the abandonment of decades of U.S. nuclear principles designed to prevent the spread of uranium enrichment, combined with the removal of effective sanctions that squeezed the regime.

By any account, the Vienna negotiations were an unqualified success for Iran. The reason for that is simple: America’s failed bipartisan North Korean policy set a model for would-be proliferators on how to negotiate one’s way to a nuclear weapon.

Now, the unwillingness or inability of Washington to learn the lessons of the past appears to ensure that regimes desiring to proliferate have a proven roadmap to follow.

With U.S. diplomacy having midwifed one failed deal and generated a new flawed one, the future will almost certainly see the further spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes.

At almost every step of the Iran negotiations, the Obama Administration repeated past mistakes made by it, the Bush, and the Clinton Administrations.

To paraphrase Barbara Tuchman, we are witnessing a nuclear march of folly. In order to prevent future similar outcomes, it’s of paramount importance that we understand the North Korean case.

The first mistake made by successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in dealing with North Korea was perhaps the fatal one. Each set of U.S. negotiators assumed, or convinced itself, that a deal could be reached that would ultimately persuade Pyongyang to abandon its goal of achieving a nuclear or ballistic missile capability.

Praising the 1994 Agreed Framework, which North Korea would cheat on, then-President Bill Clinton assured the nation that “North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. . . . The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.” North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, even while it was engaged in negotiations with Clinton’s successor.

The writing was already on the wall.

NB: An extended version of this article appears in The American Interest

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in Asian regional security and political issues. Before joining AEI, Auslin was an associate professor of history at Yale University. His articles can be read here

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