New appointments of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security Advisor send strong messages to U.S. adversaries and friends that President Trump is bigly serious about ending previous Clinton, Bush, and Obama Iran and North Korea appeasement policies.
Both of their predecessors are nevertheless good people. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a civil engineer, rose through the ranks to become chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. His replacement, Mike Pompeo, graduated top of his West Point class, served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War before attending Harvard Law School, was then elected to the House of Representatives for Kansas’s 4th congressional district, and has served as CIA Director since 2017.
Three-star General H.R. McMaster, who had already been expected to vacate his national security post later this year, came to the administration with a highly accomplished combat record and a reputation as one of the Army’s best strategic military thinkers. His successor, Yale graduate John Bolton, brings well-seasoned and similarly tough-minded experience as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, undersecretary of state for arms control for Pres. George H.W. Bush, and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Pres. G.W. Bush.
Pompeo and Bolton are coming on board at a time of enormously critical and vexing Iran and North Korea policy negotiations. The administration faces a self-imposed May 12 deadline regarding whether to leave or attempt to fix Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more infamously known as the “Iran nuclear deal.” Simultaneously, preparations are ensuing for a summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un to address North Korean nuclear disarmament.
Iran and North Korea policy deliberations and actions are closely connected in terms of interdependent strategies and consequences. The Tehran-Pyongyang axis has followed similar playbooks against Western negotiators over more than three decades, namely using talks to stall for time as they have secretly advanced programs later used to extort additional economic concessions.
The two regimes are believed to be jointly developing and exchanging atomic weapon expertise and missile delivery technologies. The Wall Street Journal reported former Obama Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying back in 2015 that Pyongyang and Tehran could be cooperating to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran’s Shahab-3 nuclear-capable 800 mile-range ballistic missile which can reach Israel is based upon North Korea’s Nodong missile. The 1,200-mile-range Khorramshahr missile that Iran showcased last year was derived from North Korea’s BM-25.
JCPOA has enabled Iran’s Islamic Republic to follow North Korea’s lead in negotiating to allow the enrichment of industrial-scale uranium, along with a potential reprocessing of plutonium for atomic weapons. Trump administration conditions to remain in pact will include intrusive nuclear compliance inspections (including military sites), new sanctions upon Iran’s development and testing of ballistic missiles, and the elimination of sunset provisions which will legitimize a pathway leading to a nuclear weapons delivery capability within a decade.
All 28 E.U. countries must agree on any new or modified sanctions. Thus far, however, the Europeans have refused to budge, especially on the sunset clauses. The current JCPOA has been lucrative for them, offering billions of dollars of Iranian business for their companies.
Failure to persuade E.U. allies to cooperate on Iran sanctions will also make it doubly difficult to get North Korea to agree to permanent denuclearization. Meanwhile, as Tehran is allowed to use Pyongyang as cover for atomic weapon development activities presently not permitted under JCPOA, North Korea will continue to perfect ballistic missile delivery systems they can share.
Allowing Iran access to nuclear-capable missiles that threaten Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Israel, will establish a disastrous precedent. North Korea can then expect the same right to test nuclear-capable missiles to hit South Korea, Japan, Guam, and even the American mainland.
Iran is already emulating North Korea by using Hezbollah’s missiles based in Syria to hold Israeli cities hostage. There is little wonder then, why Israel is joining with the Trump administration to demand a strict Iran nuclear deal overhaul… most urgently to unconditionally end to sunset provisions.
Secretary Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton, both who are outspoken critics of JCPOA, will amplify pressures upon E.U. nations to either toughen up terms of the pact, or risk having it unravel through American withdrawal. A far more dangerous alternative is to continue previous U.S. administration policies of whistling past the graveyard as Pyongyang and Tehran continue to jointly and separately develop nuclear and missile programs.
Some may argue that changing or abandoning the Iran deal will cause North Korea to view U.S. as an untrustworthy partner. The opposite is true. Perpetuating fecklessly flaccid appeasement policies will only break trust in America’s leadership commitment to ensure the security of its citizens.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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