In taking on Iran and North Korea, one size does not fit all

In taking on Iran and North Korea, one size does not fit all
© Getty Images

In the run-up to negotiations with Pyongyang, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE has sought to project that he will not settle for just any deal. Looking ahead, he may have in mind a desire to replicate the Pyongyang model with Tehran, “maximum pressure,” combined with willingness to enter broad negotiations — coercive diplomacy.

Meanwhile, foreign policy leaders are discussing the practicalities of denuclearizing North Korea. They need to consider questions like: What does verified denuclearization mean? What were the roadmaps for denuclearization of Pyongyang? How can denuclearization be verified?  

Importantly, our leaders must recognize the discrete challenges of Pyongyang and Tehran. Relying on “one size fits all” may lead to disaster. A regime-change policy for rogue Tehran could serve the national interest because Iran has a viable coalition of dissidents; but the same policy might be a disaster, if it were applied to Pyongyang, which lacks a self-sustaining opposition.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: If a regime-change policy were applied to one rogue state, then would that policy be applicable to another rogue state? Not so fast, the bottom line here is that the reverse is true.

Like Pyongyang, which is a nuclear-armed state with a nearing potential capability to strike our cites, Tehran is likely to have those capabilities after a few years of determined effort. Unlike Pyongyang, with no signs of a substantial anti-regime movement, regime change from within Iran can be a tool in the administration’s toolbox. How?

An organized opposition to the Iranian regime exists, and regime change might include the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in a principal role.

There’s also the sunset clause in the accord (refraining from breakout for 10 years, after political commitment among parties); and second, snapback provision (reimposing sanctions if there were noncompliance); and, third, international inspections.

Now, what about conflict between the United States and Europe?

Old Europe strikes back against New America

Consider the EU reaction to Washington’s decision to isolate Tehran with secondary sanctions; the EU strikes back to protect European companies from our sanctions, imposed by Treasury on Iran, May 15.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran. According to the White House, they moved millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Hezbollah. They were designated as Specially-Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

But Europe is fighting back against Washington’s isolation of Iran with new rules to protect EU companies from our sanctions.

The Commission said last week it is planning to shield EU-based companies continuing to trade with Iran, despite our decision to quit the deal and reintroduce sanctions.

Earlier, on Feb. 3, 2017:

Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned multiple entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s (IRGC).”

Although outside the jurisdiction of the deal, Treasury acted in the financial sector to counter Tehran’s malign behavior abroad. We could intensify use of economic sanctions to counter Tehran, without repudiating the accord; it does not address Iran’s support for terrorism or ballistic missiles, per White House critiques of the deal

The Path Forward

The following measures are necessary, per a new book written by NCRI experts, whose findings are consistent with the Trump administration’s strategy: immediate, complete, simultaneous and unfettered inspection of all six sites and centers associated by the IAEA and the full disclosure of the results as soon as possible.

Moreover, “Team Trump” should:

  1. Broaden sanctions on Pyongyang and Tehran and instruct his team to persuade European counterparts to implement additional sanctions on these rogue regimes.
  2. Press Iran to extend the sunset clause, which lengthens the time Iran has to acquire nuclear weapons. Extending sunset provisions, while providing Tehran with incentives, e.g., sanctions relief is standard practice in the world of arms control.
  3. Curb the rogues’ ballistic-missile programs. As CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions State Department's top arms control official leaving MORE said, “There is a long history of proliferation ties between North Korea and Iran,” and we know technology transfers make it easier to maintain and grow a weapons program.

Trump can strengthen his “America First” platform by addressing those most threatening to U.S. security — Pyongyang and Tehran. The public servants in this administration embodies an ethos of service — one that is civic as well as military — which the United States needs.

Raymond Tanter served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, personal representative of the secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @ProfRTanter.