With North Korea dominating the news cycle lately, it’s considerably alarming that Iran seems to be following suit right behind the Hermit Kingdom’s actions. In much of the 1990s and early 2000s, we fought North Korean nuclear ambitions and attempted to thwart their efforts to become more powerful.
In 2015, Barack Obama, trying to thwart similar aspirations from Iran, passed the JCPOA; an agreement that disbanded Iranian nuclear proliferation for ten years but did not address all Iranian forms of aggression. Last Monday, Iran showed how much they appreciate the wiggle room. Iran, through a vote in their legislative body, set aside 800 million dollars to produce more missiles and weapons capabilities. While some may say this doesn’t break the JCPOA, it surely is against the spirit of the agreement.
It is impossible to argue that missiles are not aggressive. While Iran claimed their nuclear program was for peaceful and for energy reasons, the missile program is unmistakably; an act of hatred and provocation against the United States and Israel. During the vote itself, members of the Iranian legislature could be heard shouting “death to America” and other statements of destruction.
But what does this have to do with North Korea, and how should we avoid a disaster regarding our policy with Iran? Iran seems to be following the same trajectory set by Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. When North Korea first made their nuclear ambitions clear in the 1990s and set on a course to produce these WMD’s President Bill Clinton put sanctions on the country and leader, and engaged in talks to de-escalate the situation. Since we have recognized Iranian attempts to do the same, US leaders levied sanctions against the Iranian regime and attempted negotiations. Similar action to President Clinton in North Korea.
Both Clinton and Obama made agreements with North Korea and Iran respectively and entrusted them to end their nuclear ambitions. In the case of Clinton, this meant recognizing the North Korean legitimacy and lifting trade embargos, and for Obama, it said giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran in hopes of them accepting peace and ending their nuclear programs temporarily. Everyone knows we failed with North Korea, and by most measures, this new move by Iran proves we are failing again.
However, we still have time to deal with Iran and not repeat the mistakes we made in Asia. But how do we do this? There are a few options as I see it, but it will not be easy or a guaranteed success. One of the options is to work with Russia to pressure Iran. President Trump is attempting to pressure China to cut relations with North Korea, and ideally the same could be done with Russia regarding Iran. However, Putin and Russia have proven they cannot necessarily be trusted and have armed and funded Iran for decades since the revolution.
As well, we could look to levy sanctions on the international level as we just did at the UN with North Korea. However, the line between Iran and the world is a lot hazier than the world and Korea, and getting the entire Muslim world to go along with this effort would be a tough sell.So, what do we do if all the options have little chances of working? First, we must scrap the JCPOA as Donald Trump promised. The deal is horribly written and gives a lot of wiggle room for the Ayatollah to produce weapons while they wait to further their nuclear ambitions.
Next, we have to work on the international level, particularly in the middle east, to gain allies in the push for internationally recognized sanctions. US sanctions alone will not be as effective as they were before, but with the help of the Middle East and Europe, we could isolate Iran and hurt them. Lastly, and most importantly, we must be stalwart in our beliefs. We cannot waiver on sanctions or our will to disarm Iran’s facilities and attempts to nuclearize. If we remain strong, Iran has no room to buck the international community.
There are no guaranteed successes in the fight to take away rogue countries nuclear advances. While we can take steps to better our chances, we cannot be certain Iran will cooperate, just as North Korea did not, but we cannot be passive. The passivity of the Obama Administration and their ultimate capitulation put the world at risk of a nuclear Iran, and it will take the full effort of the Trump administration to avoid another hostile country producing nuclear weapons.