Tom Z. Collina, Catherine Killough, Philip Yun
Unlike North Korea today, Iran does not possess a single nuclear weapon. By trashing the Iran deal, President Trump risks turning Iran into North Korea.
President Donald Trump, at the urging of National Security Advisor John Bolton, has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear agreement, putting the future of the deal in jeopardy. Trump did this despite the fact that Iran is in compliance with the deal, that the deal has served to shrink Iran’s nuclear program and keep it away from a bomb, and that it has prevented another costly war in the Middle East.
Just how bad will things get with Iran now that Trump has acted? Hard to say, but we can see the writing on the wall: Tehran could restart its nuclear program and edge closer to building a bomb. This would lead to increased calls from the right to—once again—stop Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, by military force if necessary. Trump is already indicating that things are heading in that direction. Just one day after breaking out of the Iran deal, Trump warned of “very severe consequences” if Iran resumes its nuclear program.
To fully understand the risks of the Trump administration abandoning the Iran deal, one need only recall what happened in North Korea after Bolton, then in the Bush administration as an under secretary of state, did his part to kill another landmark nuclear deal—the Agreed Framework.
In 1994, the North Korean regime threatened to go nuclear for the first time. To prove the point, Pyongyang expelled all international inspectors and made preparations to extract weapons-grade plutonium from its Yongbyon research reactor. The risks of a conventional conflict—even then— were high because the Clinton Administration was seriously considering military intervention in case diplomacy failed. An unprecedented meeting between former president Jimmy Carter and North Korean leader Kim Il-sung eventually led to the first U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal, the Agreed Framework.