Philip Gordon takes apart the absurd idea that reneging on the nuclear deal will improve the chances of negotiating an agreement with North Korea:
The problem with this sort of linkage — nice as it may sound — is that is has virtually no chance of working. The Iran deal is highly unlikely to be modified in the way Trump wants and even if it somehow were, that wouldn’t lead to a similar agreement with North Korea. In fact, the most likely result of trying to get a nuclear deal with North Korea by demanding changes to the existing one with Iran is not two effective nuclear deals, but zero, along with a situation in which U.S. options shrink to either acquiescence or military intervention.
When Iran hawks say they want to “fix” the nuclear deal with Iran, we can be very sure that they are not arguing in good faith. Opponents of the deal never wanted any agreement with Iran that Iran would find acceptable, and so their interest in “fixing” what isn’t broken is driven entirely by a desire to wreck the existing agreement. Their approach is akin to someone saying that he would like to “fix” your broken arm by cutting it off. Framing their sabotage as repair work makes their efforts to destroy a successful nonproliferation agreement seem less obnoxious, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is nothing in the deal that needs to be “fixed.” The “fix” that the deal’s opponents have in mind is just another way of smuggling in unreasonable and irrelevant demands into the nuclear deal after it has already been concluded. It can’t “work” except to undermine the agreement, but then it was never intended to “work” any other way.
Many supporters of the nuclear deal will sometimes preface their support by acknowledging that the deal isn’t “perfect,” but then that is true of any agreement that is negotiated among various states that have divergent interests and goals. There can never be a “perfect” agreement because there will never be a compromise that is completely satisfying to all parties. That is the essence of compromise: a willingness to accept certain things that you don’t like for the sake of concessions that you regard to be more important. The “flaws” in the deal, such as they are, are bound up in the necessary compromises that all parties made in order to reach an agreement. It is not possible to retroactively “fix” those flaws against the wishes of one or more of the parties, because the very attempt represents a breach of trust and a violation of the existing deal. Trying to “fix” an agreement that already works very well just reeks of bad faith, and that is most obvious to the other parties to the deal.
If North Korea’s government is paying attention to the “fix it or nix it” charade, they will probably be very wary of negotiating with a government that won’t really take yes for an answer. The North Koreans might reasonably wonder why they should make any deal that people on our side will try to unilaterally change a few years down the road. Hawks are always saying that the U.S. can’t trust the other side to honor their commitments, but they are working overtime to make sure that no one can trust the U.S. to honor ours.