Is Iran the new North Korea?

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted about 40 participants on April 1st in their downtown Washington, D.C. building. Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton; ASI’s resident scholar, Michael Rubin; and George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, led a discussion titled “Is Iran the new North Korea?” AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt moderated the event that compared and contrasted the current undergoing nuclear deal with Iran to North Korea.

Rubin started off the discussion by explaining that he is paid to “predict the past” as a 19th century Iranian historian and certain patterns jump out when comparing North Korea to Iran. During the development of the nuclear agreement with the Asian country, the 1994 South Korean president Kim Young Sam, he explained, criticized the logic of the United States’ engagement with allowing North Korea to have nuclear weapons. This, in the eyes of the South Korean president, would bring more harm than good to the world. Rubin labeled Kim Young Sam as the Ben Netanyahu of that deal because of his advocate against the deal. But Rubin stated that, in regards to both deals, the U.S. “will never let allies get in our way because it won’t harm a good agreement.”

Perkovich highlighted the differences. He drew attention to the different amount of materials that both Iran and North Korea had at the beginning of their respected negotiations. Iran does not have sufficient material to develop one single nuclear weapon. North Korea had enough to build two nuclear weapons before the agreement was finalized. But Perkovich noted a few similarities, which include that both countries feared that the U.S.’s motives included destroying their regimes.

Bolton took his turn to discuss the economic sanctions side of the nuclear weapons. In order for the economic sanctions to be effective, it must be enforced by the military. North Korea’s sanctions were largely American unilateral but American unilateral sanctions are not enough because North Korea has been able to continue testing missiles. American unilateral sanctions are easy to avoid. The Iranian sanctions placed are not comprehensive enough, according to Bolton. In Iran, the economic sanctions have caused pain but there is no evidence that it has slowed down nuclear production.

During a question and answer portion, Rubin was asked if the Iranian people are open to nuclear weapons. Rubin stated that most polls show that people are in favor of the weapons but one company, which released a poll against the weapons, was later closed down. Bolton responded to his question on the constitutionality of the nuclear deal that President Obama is acting within the right of executive action. He also added that the outcry from Congress is a divergent from what the deal truly is.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion greatly. It was very intriguing to hear these three great minds share their knowledge and opinion of the topic. I am surprised by how little they did speak about the North Korea deal.

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