All and Nothing 


Israel, Ma'ariv

By Nadav Eyal


What does the North Korean move mean with respect to Iran? Maybe nothing, actually. 


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


1 March 2012



It's not worthwhile to draw conclusions regarding the Iranian nuke: North Korea's decision is not going to really impose a new world order and it has no pretensions to do so.


1. What does the yesterday's North Korean move mean? That diplomacy can win. That sanctions can work and fold a nuclear, military, totalitarian and West-hating country. In exchange for food just food the North Koreans agreed to give up on uranium enrichment, to stop ballistic tests, to suspend preparations for nuclear tests, to allow the entry of IAEA inspectors and to cut the development of nuclear arms of any kind. 

The change of regime in North Korea has made this shift possible, but it was born still years ago, in the period of Kim Jong-il. Since 2009, and North Korea's nuclear tests, the West has been trying to persuade them to relinquish their nuclear weapons in return for solving burdensome, huge domestic problems. The depth of the North Korean hunger crisis is unknown; judging by this deal it is apparently more widespread and deadlier than was initially estimated.

The advocates of sanctions concerning Iran will say now, with a renewed determination: Diplomacy should be given a chance. North Korea is a closed in and rogue country way more than Iran. Up until a year ago, the Iranians paid a miserable price for their nuclear stubbornness. The world was talking of stick and carrot but the centrifuges in Natanz kept whirling, and the European oil tankers kept anchoring. 

Last year, for the first time, the Iranian economy has been choking. A regular, average Iranian started paying a heavy personal price for persistence on the nuclear weapons. One more year like that, two more years and what happened in North Korea, could happen in Tehran as well.

The Iranians watched yesterday their northern outcast ally, and certainly felt a little more isolated. The North Koreans are those who have given them the technology of the ballistic missiles, and they are probably also very deep in the secrets of Tehran's nuclear program. Their step toward the West is bad news for Ahmedinejad's regime.


2. What does the North Korean move mean with respect to Iran? Maybe nothing, actually. North Korea has not promised to dismantle its nuclear arms, it only said she would stop developing new ones. Anyway, the assessments in the West were and stayed skeptical apropos its true capabilities.

The North Koreans are not really disarming their weapons. For such disarmament, they'll try to charge a much higher price than 240,000 tons of meals. Either way, the circular track of relations with North Korea remained constant: progress in the talks, after which comes nuclear monitoring and Western gestures, and then again escalation, nuclear exacerbation, relaxation, advancement in the talks and nuclear inspection and so forth.

We've been in this story at least three times, and here comes another one. Are they serious? It's like asking if Pyongyang is ready for profound political reforms and setting free from its religious-Stalinist tradition. It could be but you can't know, and it seems highly unlikely. 

Unlike the Iranians, the North-Koreans merely want to be left alone. Their ideal is a closed economic system that sustains itself. It's not really working and therefore, they need the West's handouts. The Iranians are far more sophisticated. They sell to the world a wanted product perhaps, the most wanted: oil. Their ability to survive in the regime of sanctions is way higher than that of the North Koreans while the latter too have survived quite a bit.

In contrast to the Koreans, the Iranians have an intention of not only defending their homeland but instead, being a regional-global [super] power. The Iranians are not seeking the nuclear weapons solely in order to protect the regime, but rather also and mainly to establish a new regional order a Shiite one. These are aspirations that North Korea, which shelters under the shadow of the great China, does not have. One should not hastily jump to any conclusions as to the North Korean situation; most unfortunately, it's very different from the Iranian threat.


The author is foreign news editor for the Israeli Channel 10


Original Hebrew article: