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North Korea and Iran Don’t Seem Particularly Intimidated

U.S. threats to crush Iran and North Korea may yet work, but as of now neither Tehran nor Pyongyang appears to be intimidated.

Repeated references by NSC adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence to the “Libya model” for denuclearization of North Korea just helped sink the Singapore summit of President Trump and Kim Jong Un. To North Korea, the Libya model means the overthrow and murder of Libya strongman Col. Gadhafi, after he surrendered his WMD.

Wednesday, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui exploded at Pence’s invocation of Libya: “Vice-President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya … I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks.

“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Thursday, Trump canceled the Singapore summit.

Earlier this week at the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out our Plan B for Iran in a speech that called to mind Prussian Field Marshal Karl Von Moltke.

Among Pompeo’s demands: Iran must end all support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Hamas in Gaza, withdraw all forces under Iranian command in Syria, and disarm its Shiite militia in Iraq.

Iran must confess its past lies about a nuclear weapons program, and account publicly for all such activity back into the 20th century.

Iran must halt all enrichment of uranium, swear never to produce plutonium, shut down its heavy water reactor, open up its military bases to inspection to prove it has no secret nuclear program, and stop testing ballistic missiles.

And unless Iran submits, she will be strangled economically.

What Pompeo delivered was an ultimatum: Iran is to abandon all its allies in all Mideast wars, or face ruin and possible war with the USA.

It is hard to recall a secretary of state using the language Pompeo deployed: “We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

But how can Iran “dominate” a Mideast that is home to Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt, as well as U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and Syria?

To Iran’s east is a nuclear-armed Pakistan. To its west is a nuclear-armed U.S. Fifth Fleet and a nuclear-armed Israel. Iran has no nukes, no warships to rival ours and a 1970s air force.

Yet, this U.S.-Iran confrontation, triggered by Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal and Pompeo’s ultimatum, is likely to end one of three ways:

First, Tehran capitulates, which is unlikely, as President Hassan Rouhani retorted to Pompeo: “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? We will continue our path with the support of our nation.” Added Ayatollah Khamenei, “Iran’s presence in the region is our strategic depth.”

Second, Iran defies U.S. sanctions and continues to support its allies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen. This would seem likely to lead to collisions and war.

Third, the U.S. could back off its maximalist demands, as Trump backed off Bolton’s demand that Kim Jong Un accept the Libyan model of total and verifiable disarmament before any sanctions are lifted.

Where, then, are we headed?

While our NATO allies are incensed by Trump’s threat to impose secondary sanctions if they do not re-impose sanctions on Tehran, the Europeans are likely to cave in to America’s demands. For Europe to choose Iran over a U.S. that has protected Europe since the Cold War began and is an indispensable market for Europe’s goods would be madness.

Vladimir Putin appears to want no part of an Iran-Israel or U.S.-Iran war and has told Bashar Assad that Russia will not be selling Damascus his S-300 air defense system. Putin has secured his bases in Syria and wants to keep them.

As for the Chinese, she will take advantage of the West’s ostracism of Iran by drawing Iran closer to her own orbit.

Is there a compromise to be had?

Perhaps, for some of Pompeo’s demands accord with the interests of Iran, which cannot want a war with the United States, or with Israel, which would likely lead to war with the United States.

Iran could agree to release Western prisoners, move Shiite militia in Syria away from the Golan Heights, accept verifiable restrictions on tests of longer-range missiles and establish deconfliction rules for U.S. and Iranian warships in the Persian Gulf.

Reward: aid from the West and renewed diplomatic relations with the United States.

Surely, a partial, verifiable nuclear disarmament of North Korea is preferable to war on the peninsula. And, surely, a new nuclear deal with Iran with restrictions on missiles is preferable to war in the Gulf.

Again, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the recent book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.

19 Comments (Open | Close)

19 Comments To "North Korea and Iran Don’t Seem Particularly Intimidated"

#1 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On May 24, 2018 @ 11:01 pm

Surely, a partial, verifiable nuclear disarmament of North Korea is preferable to war on the peninsula. And, surely, a new nuclear deal with Iran with restrictions on missiles is preferable to war in the Gulf.

And surely Herr Hitler will see that a deal in which he gets the Sudetanland is preferable to war in Czechoslovakia.

#2 Comment By Cyrus On May 25, 2018 @ 9:38 am

Like anyone is going to make any deals with a crazy man in office? Fergetit

#3 Comment By Michael Kenny On May 25, 2018 @ 9:38 am

“A U.S. that has protected Europe since the Cold War began”. Amusing argument from Mr Buchanan, who never ceases to advocate that the US should cease to defend Europe (insofar as it is still doing so)! To get the EU and NATO on his side, all Trump has to do is get Putin out of Ukraine. Putin seems to be running for home with his tail between his legs, which will seriously discredit him, but he too could get the EU and NATO on his side by simply getting out of Ukraine.

#4 Comment By Dan Green On May 25, 2018 @ 9:54 am

Pat: If anyone you should remember our long ago label, ” Paper Tiger,”

#5 Comment By Fred Bowman On May 25, 2018 @ 10:39 am

Pat if you were an Iranian would you even want to make a deal with the Trump Administration, knowing full well they’re more likely to renege on such a deal than honor it.

#6 Comment By sglover On May 25, 2018 @ 10:57 am

He’s your boy, Buchanan. Trump, Bolton, Pompeo — this is the regime you lusted for.

#7 Comment By ukm1 On May 25, 2018 @ 11:01 am

“Surely, a partial, verifiable nuclear disarmament of North Korea is preferable to war on the peninsula.”

Why would any country de-nuclearize itself after spending so much money to build nuclear weapons in the first place?

Koreans tested nuclear devices; so, Americans wanted to talk to them bi-laterally.

Whereas Iranians have not tested any nuclear weapon and Americans want to invade their country!

President Bush II offered and wanted India to de-nuclearize too in exchange of building multiple electricity generating nuclear plants inside India by using the best American technologies; but, Indians refused.

What business Koreans will get from America after de-nuclearizing — as well as getting rid of the stockpiles — when Koreans will be at constant military threats from America to behave in America’s financial and military interests all the time?

Koreans will be at America’s mercy for survival if they follow American advice.

America is now a bottomless basket of economy with 22 trillion U.S. dollars of national debt.

So, starting wars overseas is the way for America to avoid paying for 40 trillion U.S. dollars of national debts in the next 25 years!

#8 Comment By Lenny On May 25, 2018 @ 12:18 pm

Option 4:

Iran gives a half billion dollar loan to a Trump project and gets off the hook.

Iran cannot want war, but Iran has calculated it can win such a war.
Picture the stock market , and the economy in general at 300 dollars a barrel, 5000 dollars an ounce of gold, for a couple of months

#9 Comment By Minnesota Mary On May 25, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

Michael Kenny, how about getting the U.S. out of Ukraine?

#10 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On May 25, 2018 @ 2:29 pm

I was helplessly hoping, as Crosby, Stills, and Nash might say, that today’s column would have something to do with the FBI shenanigans. It doesn’t, but allow me to point to something curious, even though it’s a total digression from the present topic.

Regardless of any Rolling Stones lyrics, the name the FBI gave to its Russia-Trump investigation, “Crossfire Hurricane,” is semantically without sense. But rhetorically it makes sense if it’s intended to refer to Hillary Clinton. It’s not just that the letter sounds match–a hard-C sound in Clinton and crossfire, and an aitch sound in hurricane and Hillary–but that the syllables and syllable emphases also match: two syllables in crossfire and Clinton, and three syllables in hurricane and Hillary, with the emphasis on the first syllable in every word.

Maybe it was just idle wordsmithery. But I doubt it. For with this extremely unlikely name, the FBI officials (and Rod Rosenstein, who was presumably in on it) could signal, while maintaining deniability, that the investigation was about protecting Hillary Clinton. Since no one at the time really thought Trump would win the election, it would be a good way of being rewarded by Madame President. Imagine her chortles of delight when she heard the name of the investigation, so neatly mimicking her own name. And anyone who didn’t get with the program would, of course, be punished by demotion or firing.

#11 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 25, 2018 @ 2:31 pm

A lot LESS may be riding a US-North Korea nuclear agreement than many Americans think:

“Kim does not need to reach an agreement with Trump, he merely has to convince his main trading partner, Beijing, that he’s made a sincere effort that was rejected by an unreasonable and tyrannical Washington. If Kim proves that he’s willing to go the extra mile for peace– by offering to decommission his nuclear arsenal– then Beijing is going to reward his behavior by easing the sanctions and restoring the DPRK’s economic lifeline…The North…[has] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to emerge from its long-term seclusion and become an active participant in an ambitious economic integration plan that will link North and South Korea to the rest of Asia via massive infrastructure and energy projects. The only catch to this proposal, is that the DPRK must abandon its nuclear weapons program and agree to resolve its issues with Seoul. In other words, Kim’s eagerness to denuclearize is not an attempt to placate Washington, but an effort to meet the minimal requirements of his economic partners in Beijing, Moscow and Seoul… Moscow, Beijing and Seoul have all made denuclearization a basic requirement for participation in their economic integration plan, so it’s a done deal. Kim is going to have to abandon his nuclear weapons. The fact is, Russia and China don’t want the smaller, surrounding nations to have nukes any more than the US wants Mexico, Canada or Cuba to have them. It dramatically impacts regional security.” (Mark Whitney, May 18, 2018, Unz Review)


#12 Comment By b. On May 25, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

“Reward: aid from the West and renewed diplomatic relations with the United States.”

They just had a dose of that. Naive.

“For Europe to choose Iran over a U.S. that [..] is an indispensable market for Europe’s goods would be madness.”

Protection racket aside, I really like this phrase. The United States of America, indispensable market… and lender… and borrower…

#13 Comment By KayFlyte On May 25, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

” Again, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

Quiet down, Pat. Don’t let the good become the enemy of the bad.

#14 Comment By Dropped Aitch On May 25, 2018 @ 6:40 pm

What kind of fool would deal with Trump, who will be kicked out in 2.5 years and probably replaced by someone who will reverse most of what he’s done?

Only someone who thinks he can get cash out of Trump right now. Or get him to start a war before he leaves office.

#15 Comment By cka2nd On May 25, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

Janwaar Bibi says: “And surely Herr Hitler will see that a deal in which he gets the Sudetanland is preferable to war in Czechoslovakia.”

Exactly. Appeasement will never satisfy these American madmen.

#16 Comment By Whine Merchant On May 25, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

Trump seems have done everyone a great service: By reneging on the Iran agreement, starting a trade war with allies and neighbours, and sending rabid dogs to attack old foes who are seeking rapprochement, he has demonstrated that whatever residual honour the USA retained from the middle of the 20th C is truly past.

This loss of credibility and moral standing frees allies to pursue their own interests, and convinces everyone that the USA is now a petty nation who cannot be trusted to keep it’s agreements or honour its obligations.

Thank you –

#17 Comment By Clyde Schechter On May 25, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

The EU may indeed decide to knuckle under to the US vis-a-vis the abrogation of the JCPOA. But if they are smart (and I don’t know if they are or not) they will begin building a new infrastructure for their independence. The US exerts a stranglehold on the world financial system because it dominates, and in some cases monopolizes, the important institutions of international trade. It would be in the interest of the EU to join with Russia and China in building new international financial institutions without the US. If oil could be bought with currencies other than US dollars, and if international payments did not have to pass through the SWIFT choke point, etc. The EU would be free to pursue independent policies. Yes, access to large US markets is important, but if closer and stronger trade relationships with China were developed, independent of US dominated institutions, the US would have less leverage.

Ironically, to do this, the EU would probably also need to accede to one of the Trump administration’s other demands: they would have to ramp up military spending so they can defend themselves without US involvement.

The world will be a better place if all of this happens.

#18 Comment By Baldy On May 26, 2018 @ 10:03 am

Any country that would trust this administration would have to be insane and self-destructive.

#19 Comment By PAX On May 26, 2018 @ 9:58 pm

Not all references to 1938 Munich fit. The Brits were not ready to fight Herr Hitler in 1938. By September 1939 their production of top-flight fighter planes (Hurricanes and Spitfires) had exceeded Germany. Plus Sudetenland had a large German population that felt discriminated against. The 1919 Treaty of Versaille left much to be desired and probably brought about the ascendancy of Hitler. Prime Minister Chamberlain did not hesitate to declare war when Poland was invaded in September 1939. I am not defending Munich, just saying it is not a perfect fit with Pat’s essay.