All eyes are currently on North Korea since U.S. intelligence analysts told reporters that North Korea has developed a warhead that fits on its ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. territory. However, there’s another country that is watching this situation play out with evil interest: Iran.
If Tehran sees North Korea getting away with building a nuclear weapon in spite of U.S. protests, it sends a message that it’s okay for the Muslim-majority country to do it, too.
Matt Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the situation with North Korean could inspire Iran to try to become the next nuclear power. “It’s a human and emotional response, but also logical,” he pointed out.
The fear may actually be a reality, after official North Korean news reports emerged that a top aide to communist leader Kim Jong Un is on a 10-day trip to meet with Iranian leaders in Tehran. The reports say top officials from North Korea’s army, navy and air force are part of the trip.
Alireza Nader, an expert on Iran for the global policy think tank RAND Corp., is not at all surprised by this news. “Iran and North Korea cooperate on many fronts but mostly on defense,” he said, adding, “Most of the North Korean relationship with Iran centers on missile systems. North Korea was helping Iran, but now Iran is helping North Korea with technology for inter-continental ballistic missiles.”
The two countries may be at odds with each other regarding religious ideologies — North Korea is communist-atheist — but the two bonded during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, as Iran sold oil to North Korea to raise cash for military supplies. Iran still ships some oil to North Korea, but North Korea doesn’t have much to trade in return for the fuel, so now “the relationship is really more military than anything,” according to Nader.
Levitt noted one big difference between the North Koreans and the Iranians: “Iran is not a closed economy that is entirely blocked off from the rest of the world, while North Korea largely is.”
In reaction to the new U.S. sanctions bill President Trump signed last week, Iran has claimed it a breach of the 2015 nuclear deal the Obama administration made with the country and is preparing to take action.
The new U.S. sanctions bill imposes a penalty on anyone involved in Iran’s ballistic missiles program, enforces an arms embargo, and applies terrorism sanctions to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Fox News reported.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, warned in an appearance on Iranian state television that Iran has a list of 16 measures to take against the United States, including steps to “improve” Iran’s armed forces.
He said Iran will avoid “getting entangled in U.S. policies,” but will come up with a “smart” reaction to the sanctions.
The Trump administration has also been calling for suspicious Iranian military sites to be inspected, as this will allow the United States to cancel the nuclear deal if Iran is not in compliance.
If Iran refuses to allow the inspections, President Trump would have justification for saying Iran has breached the contract themselves.
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