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Friday, April 12, 2013

Iran and North Korea: Partners in crime

If North Korea is capable of delivering a ballistic missile mounted on a nuclear weapon, could Iran be far behind?
Iran has been closely linked to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. Analysts suspect that Iranian assistance was critical in rapidly advancing North Korea’s missile program. Iranian missile experts are thought to have been on the ground during North Korea’s recent rocket launch, and there have reportedly been high-level meetings between Iranian and North Korean officials on the issue.
On the nuclear front, Pyongyang has developed its nuclear arsenal despite international sanctions and diplomatic efforts. In 2003, North Korea unilaterally withdrew from the Treat on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The country tested nuclear weapons in 2006, 2009, and in February 2013.
The February 2013 test was suspected at the time of being a mechanism for Iran to outsource its nuclear development to North Korea, with a U.S. official saying that “it’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” Suspicions heightened earlier this month when it emerged that the North Koreans had taken unusually stringent measures to shield the composition of the blast from detection. It is feared that the explosion was uranium-based rather than plutonium-based, as had been the previous two tests.
North Korea is not known to possess a pathway to creating weapons-grade uranium. Meanwhile the Iranian program largely focuses on enriching uranium, with Tehran making moves to activate a plutonium pathway only recently. Any uranium bomb tested in North Korea would functionally be treated as an Iranian bomb, either directly or because Iran had transferred the technology to build it.
Meanwhile Western officials have drawn parallels between how the two countries developed nuclear weapons, with an emphasis on the need to prevent Iran from following North Korea’s example and using negotiations to stall for time while developing the infrastructure necessary for acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
And yet Iran continues to do just that, and the West continues to go along via the P 5+1 talks.... And Iran is a bigger threat.
Iran would also be different from other nuclear rogue states. The West often fears a nuclear Pakistan, given that a large part of its tribal lands is ungovernable and overrun with Islamic radicals. Its government is friendly to the West only to the degree that American aid continues.
Yet far larger and more powerful India deters nuclear Pakistan. For all the wild talk from both the Pakistani government and tribal terrorists, there is general fear in Pakistan that India has superior conventional and nuclear forces. India is also unpredictable and not the sort of nation that can be periodically threatened and shaken down for concessions.
Iran has no comparable existential enemy of a billion people — only a tiny Israel of some seven million. The result is that there is no commensurate regional deterrent.
Nor does Iran have a tough master like nuclear China. Even Beijing finally pulls on the leash when its unpredictable North Korean client has threatened to bully neighbors and create too unprofitable a fuss.
Of course, China enjoys the angst that its subordinate causes its rivals. It also sees North Korea as a valuable impediment to a huge, unified, and Westernized Korea on its borders. But that said, China does not want a nuclear war in its backyard. That fact ultimately means North Korea is muzzled once its barking becomes too obnoxious.
A nuclear Iran would worry about neither a billion-person nuclear existential enemy nearby such as India, nor a billion-person patron such as China that would establish redlines to its periodic madness. Instead, Tehran would be free to do and say what it pleased. And its nuclear status would become a force multiplier to its enormous oil wealth and self-acclaimed world leadership of Shiite Muslims.
If North Korea has been a danger, then a bigger, richer, and undeterred nuclear Iran would be a nightmare.
Meanwhile Nero Obama  continues to fiddle and to send his minions to talk about linkage. Get ready for nuclear war, folks. It's coming.

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