February 25, 2024

Important not to look to North Korea for lessons on Iran

Iran-North Korea comparison misses the key differences between the two countries

As the United States and Iran enter into an interim agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program, many are warning Washington to avoid the same errors that previous administrations have made in nuclear negotiations with North Korea. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, directly linked the agreement with Iran to that with the DPRK in 2005.

The message is clear: Pyongyang’s impunity and erratic behavior should act as a cautionary tale for how Tehran could act in the near future if the United States allows it too many concessions. This analysis has some sense: after all, both nations are pursuing ballistic weapons technology alongside nuclear enrichment programs. But comparing North Korea to Iran provides few practical guidelines for negotiations or assessments on how Tehran may act - there are vast differences in the two countries’ outlook, goals, and risk assessment.