After the recent North Korea-South Korea summit, suspension of nuclear and missile tests by the North anticipating an unprecedented meeting with a U.S. president, and after President Trump’s successful meeting with French President Macron on the Iran nuclear deal, expectations among many are soaring.
Mr. Trump stands on the threshold of decision about two nuclear deals crucial to U.S. and global security:
1) Meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to negotiate possible denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). 2) Abandoning or re-negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).
Yet Mr. Trump’s State Department advisors pretend, as did the Obama administration, that no linkage exists between North Korea and Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and none between these rogue states, China and Russia.
However, these assumptions are fundamentally false.
Any denuclearization agreements reached with North Korea or Iran individually are doomed to fail because the strategic environment for nuclear arms control has altered radically since the Cold War.
Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are tacit allies in a New Cold War against the United States. North Korean and Iranian nuclear and missile threats are built on Russian and Chinese technology. And Iran and North Korea are strategic partners, bound by interests and treaty, to cooperate on missile and nuclear programs.
Iran’s missiles are mostly based on North Korean missiles — which are mostly derived from Russian and Chinese missiles.
Ilan Berman warned in “North Korea: Iran’s Pathway To A Nuclear Weapon” (National Interest, August 2015): “The Islamic Republic has also relied on the DPRK for help with its nuclear program. In recent years, North Korea is known to have assisted in fortifying a number of Iranian nuclear facilities against possible preemptive strikes. It has also reportedly dispatched hundreds of nuclear experts to work within the Islamic Republic, as well as providing Tehran with key nuclear software.”
Expert testimony and evidence provided to Congress has proven North Korean and Iranian collaboration on nuclear missiles, widely reported in the press.
Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon (Jan. 7, 2016):
“One day after North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, lawmakers and regional experts are warning Pyongyang and Tehran are continuing an illicit clandestine partnership enabling the rogue nations to master nuclear technology.
“Iran is believed to be housing some of its key nuclear weapons-related technology in North Korea in order to avoid detection by international inspectors. Iranian dissidents once tied to the regime have disclosed that both countries have consulted on a nuclear warhead.”
Proliferation expert Claudia Rossett testified to Congress (2016) the JCPOA failed to “cut off pathways between Iran and nuclear proliferating North Korea” making it “safer for Iran to cheat” and “go shopping in North Korea.”
Rep. Ileana Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa (2016): “Iran and North Korea have a history of collaboration on military programs and have long been suspected of collaborating on nuclear related programs.Iran won’t even need to make any progress on its domestic nuclear program—once it perfects its ballistic missiles it could purchase a weapon from North Korea.”
Sen. David Perdue, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned (2016): “Let’s not forget, Iranians reportedly have been present at each of North Korea’s previous tests.”
But President Trump’s State Department advisors appear to have forgotten the existence of a nuclear missile “axis of evil” between North Korea, Iran, Russia and China.
Indeed, they appear to have “drunk the Kool-Aid” concocted by President Obama’s politicized intelligence community, denying overwhelming evidence of nuclear missile collaboration between these states, in order to advance the JCPOA.
Mr. Trump rightly condemns the Iran nuclear deal as one of the worst treaties in history. But does he understand that JCPOA is fundamentally unfixable because of the “nuclear shell game” being played by Tehran, Pyongyang, Moscow and Beijing?
Even if Mr. Trump gets everything he wants from Iran in a new nuclear deal, what is to stop North Korea from clandestinely transferring nuclear weapons to Iran?
Even if Mr. Trump gets everything he wants in denuclearization talks with North Korea, what is to stop Iran from clandestinely carrying on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?
Even if Mr. Trump gets everything he wants in denuclearization of both Iran and North Korea, what is to stop Russia and China from clandestinely making them nuclear missile states overnight?
The State Department’s Cold War “whack-a-mole” strategy for non-proliferation will no longer work in the strategic environment of the New Cold War. The incentive to challenge — or destroy — the U.S.-dominated world order by nuclear-armed proxies North Korea and Iran is too tempting for Russia and China to resist.
Another new reality — the vulnerability of the U.S. and electronic civilization to destruction by EMP attack using a single nuclear weapon. EMP empowers rogue states or terrorists to threaten or execute an assured destruction capability against the U.S. with one nuclear weapon.
Consequently, no arms control regime with North Korea or Iran, no matter how good we may think the verification provisions, will assuredly protect the U.S. from EMP attack.
No matter what Pyongyang and Tehran may agree to, assume the agreements are worthless. Proceed with U.S. nuclear forces modernization, space-based missile defenses and EMP protection of the electric grid full speed ahead.
• Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff of the congressional EMP Commission, served on the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.