There has been much back-slapping and self-congratulation amongst the Western powers that have helped broker a deal with Iran regarding the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear weapons program. An overwhelming sense of optimism has greeted the news that the Iranians have agreed to curb their nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of Western-imposed sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic’s economy.
Two parties do not share in this optimism. Israel and Saudi Arabia, traditional enemies yet both deeply opposed to the belligerent activities of Shia Iran, see the deal as an historic mistake. This is not simple doom-mongering, however, as the case of North Korea shows.
In 1994, the ‘Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ was signed in a bid to curtail the nuclear ambitions of the isolationist East Asian state. The North Koreans agreed to abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchanged for American fuel imports and help in establishing a civilian nuclear program.
It is contentious whether the North Koreans ever intended to honour the agreement, although the subsequent actions of its government suggests not. By 2003, Kim Jong-Il had withdrawn his country from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and was openly pursuing a nuclear weapons program again.
Since 2003, there have been intermittent flashes of hope that the North Koreans will reverse their destabilising posturing. Indeed, the North has on occasions, under the auspices of the Six Party Talks, pledged to restrict its nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions cuts and fuel subsidies from the West. On each occasion, the West has been obliging, part of a desperation not to get embroiled in a military conflict in China’s sphere of influence.
It has taken further unsanctioned nuclear and ballistic missile tests, in addition to belligerent war cries from leader Kim Jong-Un, for the Western powers to finally realise the North Korean game. When times are particularly tough, and sanctions begin to affect the elite not just the starving multitude, then promises of nuclear disarmament are made. These promises soon go out of the window once the North Koreans have got what they want; usually an increased oil supply.
What is to say that the Iranians are not pursuing a similar path of diplomacy? They have already borrowed heavily from the North Koreans on sensitive issues such as ballistic missile capabilities; why not take that rare step of copying North Korean foreign policy, knowing that America and its allies are determined not to get involved in another Middle Eastern war?
Like North Korea, Iran has followed a consistently hostile stance towards the West in recent years. This will not, despite the optimistic claims, change. Despite the Geneva resolution, Iran will continue to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities.
Just when harsh economic sanctions were beginning to undermine the popularity of Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime, the West has capitulated. The onus has now been thrown on the rightfully-wary Israelis to take a firm stance against the Iranian machine.