Thursday, February 15, 2007

North Korea a Precedent for Iran. Probably Not!

North Korea is a mysterious place, but Washington makes Pyongyang seem pellucidly open. We knew what Kim Jong Il and his pals wanted, and they seem to have got it. On the other hand no one was sure what the Bush administration wanted, although, now John Bolton has denounced what Christopher Hill has achieved, we can suspect that firstly, there has been a change of policy, and secondly, the change was an improvement.

There is little or nothing in this agreement that could not have been secured by the administration five years ago. In fact in terms of disarmament, it is getting back to the status quo before the Bush administration effectively reneged on the agreement. The Koreans wanted respect –normalization of relations and a guarantee that the US would not attack them, and for the price of a damp squid of a nuclear test, now they have it. If the deal goes through, that is what Washington has now offered along with lifting the financial restrictions.

It is being presented as a triumph of American diplomacy, but that is true only if we consider it the triumph of Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill in getting the White House to see sense, as much as it was a success in cajoling North Korea to the table. But even then, DPKR wanted to meet the Americans at the table all along, so whose triumph is it.

If reality really has connected, Washington will now follow up with a similar deal with Iran. But it won’t. Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council member revealed in Washington Wednesday that in 2003 Teheran offered normalization when the moderate Rafsanjani was in office. Describing it as a “serious proposal, a serious effort,” at rapprochement delivered through the Swiss embassy in Teheran. It was turned down, by both Rice and Bush, Leverett claims.

I suspect that this deal was not designed as a precedent for Iran. On the contrary, the intention is to free resources for attacking Iran. Looking at the renewal of spurious revelations of Iranian involvement in Iraq against the US, it seems that the closest the White House has come to sanity is to realize that the American military power is severely overstretched. Action against North Korea was not on the cards because neither South Korea nor China would tolerate it, and even Japan, with real issues against Pyongyang, would not want to see an Iraqi style imbroglio across the Sea of Japan, let alone a possible low level nuclear exchange.

So the administration is almost certainly cutting its losses in Korea to concentrate on Iran where it does have willing platforms and covert allies. It is not totally irrelevant that totalitarian and despotic as it is, North Korea poses no threat to Israel. Of course, in reality, neither is Iran. But while the administration may have had a brief, tangential relationship with reality over North Korea, it will normal non-reality based operations.

It is worth noticing that for all its theocratic faults, Iran is a far freer and more democratic society than Iran, and in terms of proliferation, the Islamic republic has been an importer rather than a consumer of missile technology, unlike cash strapped North Korea whose arms industry is all that is left of its vaunted industrial self reliance.

So attacking Iran will not make sense. But neither did the war in Iraq.

No comments: