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The Blind Spot on Iran

It’s nice to see that the scales have fallen from the Obama administration’s eyes when it comes to North Korea. The New York Times, which in this case serves as the semi-official government mouthpiece (just as the Times of London once did for the British government), reports:

Mr. Obama, aides say, has decided that he will not offer North Korea new incentives to dismantle the nuclear complex at Yongbyon that the North previously promised to abandon.

“I’m tired of buying the same horse twice,” Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said last week while touring an antimissile site in Alaska that the Bush administration built to demonstrate its preparedness to destroy North Korean missiles headed toward the United
States.

Instead, the administration is trying to figure out how to get tough with North Korea — even to the point of reversing some of President Bush’s unwarranted concessions:

The Obama administration signaled Sunday that it was seeking a way to interdict, possibly with China’s help, North Korean sea and air shipments suspected of carrying weapons or nuclear technology.

The administration also said it was examining whether there was a legal basis to reverse former President George W. Bush’s decision last year to remove the North from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Behind this shift of policy is a growing realization that the assumptions made by preceding administrations about North Korea are incorrect:

While Mr. Obama was in the Middle East and Europe last week, several senior officials said the president’s national security team had all but set aside the central assumption that guided American policy toward North Korea over the past 16 years and two presidencies: that the North would be willing to ultimately abandon its small arsenal of nuclear weapons in return for some combination of oil, nuclear power plants, money, food and guarantees that the United States would not topple its government, the world’s last Stalinesque regime.

Now, after examining the still-inconclusive evidence about the results of North Korea’s second nuclear test, the administration has come to different conclusions: that Pyonyang’s top priority is to be recognized as a nuclear state, that it is unwilling to bargain away its weapons and that it sees tests as a way to help sell its nuclear technology.

The administration is to be commended for its realism in this case and its realization that there are, after all, limits to what diplomacy can achieve if not backed up by credible threats. The question is why, having seen the light on North Korea, the administration is now about to commit the same mistake that its predecessors made in dealings with Pyongyang in its own relations with Tehran?

What makes the administration think Iran is any more open to giving up its nuclear weapons program than North Korea is? All the evidence indicates that Iran is dead-set on going nuclear — just as North Korea was. If they undertake negotiations it will be as a smokescreen and delaying mechanism to give them time to weaponize. And by all indications Obama is going to play right into their hands.



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