Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is Iran Really Like North Korea?

So claim the Saudis in announcing their joining Israel in opposing the new Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the P5+1 with Iran. Why do  the Saudis make such a claim?  They have argued that Clinton engaged in a soft policy that led to North Korea obtaining nuclear weapons.  This agreement with Iran is supposedly like what Clinton did in the 90s with North Korea, so accepting the deal will lead to Iran obtaining nuclear weapons also, presumably unless somebody goes and bombs, bombs, bombs Iran, as John McCain used to put it.  Is there any basis for this argument?

No.

What led to North Korea getting nuclear weapons has rarely been discussed in the US media, and is not at all now.  I am not surprised that the Saudis are confused about this, as I suspect the vast majority of Americans have no idea with what really happened.  It has barely been reported.  As it is, this was the second worst foreign policy disaster of the George W. Bush administration, with only the invasion of Iraq.  Unsurprisingly, those pushing the invasion of Iraq (and now pushing bombing Iran) were those who were behind this Korean fiasco.

After North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994, relations between the two Koreas relaxed, especially following a visit to Pyongyang by Jimmy Carter.  South Korean President Kim Dae Jung began his "Sunshine Policy," indeed supported by the Clinton administration.  One of the things to come out of this was North Korea joining the NNPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and shutting down its plutonium producing facility, effectively shutting down its developing nuclear weapons program.  Kim Dae Jung would receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his policy.  I note he was a genuine reformer who had been a dissident during the Park Chung Hee dictatorship (1960-1979) and was tortured by that regime so that he always had a major limp until his death in 2009.  He was actually saved from execution during this period by the US CIA.

When George W. Bush became US president in January, 2001, his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, thought that continuing the US policy supporting the ongoing negotiations was the proper thing to do and communicated this to President Kim.  Kim came to Washington in early March after that to meet with Bush with this expectation in his mind. But upon arriving, he learned that Cheney and Rumsfeld had gotten to Bush to undo Powell's approach.  They believed that North Korea was on the verge of collapse (they got such views from Nicholas Eberstadt, among others), so that tightening sanctions would push them over the edge and regime change would result.  Kim Dae Jung returned furious to Seoul, and US popularity in South Korea tumbled sharply.  The Sunshine Policy came to an end.

Needless to say, what followed in North Korea was not a collapse, but a withdrawal from the NNPT, a restarting of the plutonium reactor, and the production and acquisition and testing of nuclear weapons.  It was not Clinton's policy that led to this outcome, it was Bush's, following an approach that the Saudis seem to think should be applied to Iran.  Really, I do not think they know what they are advocating there, this is so incredibly stupid.  The loss of their longtime foreign minister, Saud al Faisal recently, is really showing.

Barkley Rosser

11 comments:

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Sorry only one paragraph. I put them in and even went in to reinforce them, but they are not there. I do not know why. Anybody on econospeak got an explanation for this, please, or how to fix it?

Sandwichman said...

It looks to me like you are inputting these to the HTML template instead of the Compose template, Barkley. Change the button in the upper left hand corner to Compose and insert the paragraph breaks.

Sandwichman said...

There you go. I'll let you fix the previous post so you see what to do.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

I tried that, and it did not work. In fact, when I went to Compose, whereas previously it had looked like it had paragraphs, it now looks like it does not in the template, and does not still here. I did not know about this, but am now thoroughly confused and frustrated.

Thanks for fixing the one.

T.J. Lann said...

great read

john c. halasz said...

I'm not convinced that N. Korea actually has an operable nuclear weapon. This is one of those things where a bluff is almost as good as the real thing.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

John,

Well, they do seem to have actually carried out some nuclear explosions, but I would agree that their capability is not all that great, and they seem to have problems with their delivery systems. The number of bombs they have is almost certainly very small, possibly fewer than ten, but they are undoubtedly a nuclear power, if a very weak one.

It has occurred to me that the Saudis are fully aware of the facts and are consciously distorting them due to knowing how ignorant the US population is. Prince Bandar has written a letter published in WaPo yesterday reiterating their nonsensical view that it was Clinton's policies, not Bush's, which are unmentioned, which brought about the outcome. I think they are consciously spreading this drivel that will get picked up by deal opponents in Congress and the Fox et al media. This is deliberate propaganda to block the deal.

john c. halasz said...

My recollection from reporting in the likes of the NYT is that the tests didn't have the seismic signature of a successful nuclear bomb test, so that either they were tests of sub-components of a bomb or failed bomb tests. Did I miss a report here? That they have plenty of enriched uranium and plutonium isn't in doubt, but whether they have an operational bomb is.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

John,

I just checked. They have carried out three tests: 2006, 2009, and 2013. The first was apparently "a fizzle" about 1 kt. The later two, 4kt and 7kt respectively (very small) were not fizzles. They may have been small, but they were the real thing.

john c. halasz said...

O.K. I must have missed those stories, (given the dates, obviously otherwise engaged). Thanks.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

In today's Washington Post coming out in a few hours, I am supposedly going to have a letter published on the topic of this post. It is short and sweet.