October 24, 2020

Will a post-deal Iran outsource the bomb to North Korea?

Worries that Tehran sanctions relief further funds Pyongyang’s nuke development

As the negotiators celebrate “Implementation Day” of the Obama Administration’s Iran nuclear deal less than two weeks after Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test, a critical question remains: is Pyongyang-Tehran nuclear cooperation now really a thing of the past? One takes limited comfort from the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which provided certification for Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement, is the same organization that, under the 1994 Agreed Framework, oversaw the freezing of North Korean plutonium production at Pyongyang’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor. This occurred even while Pyongyang was simultaneously pursuing a secret, second path to nuclear weaponry via a highly enriched uranium program. The IAEA involvement with North Korean denuclearization compliance came to an abrupt end when Pyongyang expelled all IAEA inspectors from the country in December 2002. Will the IAEA be more observant and successful with Iran this time around?

President Obama hailed the new agreement with Iran in his recent State of the Union address, noting that “as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.” His words stand in marked contrast to those uttered by another president in another State of the Union address over a decade ago. In January 2002 then-President George W. Bush warned the Congress and the American people that North Korea and Iran constituted a part of an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” Kim Jong Un demonstrated with his January 6th nuclear test that he is still arming and further threatening peace. The question is: is his former “axis of evil” partner Iran really ready to throw in the nuclear towel?”