Washington Examiner, By Shahriar Kia
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
North Korea's most recent hydrogen bomb test is another reminder of the consequences of not making the right decision at the right time. The international community's failure to stop and dismantle North Korea's nuclear program has enabled the regime to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
A similar scene is developing in Iran, where the only thing standing between a fundamentalist regime and nuclear weapons is an agreement with too many loopholes and no safeguards against threats that run parallel to the atomic bomb.
Both Iran and North Korea are rogue regimes that defy universal values and international norms. In this regard, their shared knack for a nuclear deterrent should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a means to an end, a guarantee for survival.
North Korea's survival is predicated on remaining secluded and preventing others from infiltrating its borders. Its regional and global forays are sporadic, the most serious cases being its alleged role in cyberattacks against Sony Entertainment in 2014 and the sinking of a South Korean ship in 2010.
On the other hand, the Iranian regime's survival is fully dependent on exporting terrorism and extremism. The Iranian regime has a long history of plotting and conducting terrorist operations across the world and has accordingly been recognized as the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It commands the widest network of Shiite militia forces across the Middle East, responsible for stoking sectarian violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, among others.
Since its founding in 1979, the mullah-ruled Islamic Republic has used foreign enemies and wars as a pretext to suppress protests and dissent. Iranian officials have time and again confessed that had it not been for their meddling in neighboring countries, they would be fighting their battles within their own borders, against their real threat and nemesis, an 80-million-strong population that rejected them a long time ago.
Therefore, Iran's main goal for a nuclear deterrent would be as a token of guarantee to be able to continue wreaking havoc across the region with wild abandon. In fact, according to former officials of the Obama administration, the Iranian regime obtained the green light to continue its slaughter of the Syrian people before ceding its nuclear program.
In this light, Iran's nuclear ambitions can't be perceived in isolation to its other threats, and that's what makes Iran's nuclear program different from that of North Korea. Regretfully, the P5+1, the countries that negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is formally known, decided to take a compartmentalized approach to dealing with Iran's illicit nuclear activities. In the process, they lost hold of Tehran's real weapon of mass destruction — its violent, extremist ideology.
This ideology has already accounted for far more deaths and misery than any single nuclear bomb could. In the past two years, thanks to the economic incentives that the international community has granted it under the nuclear accord, the Iranian regime has intensified its intervention in neighbouring countries. As a result, Iraq and Syria are all but broken states, and Yemen is not far behind.
The JCPOA was supposed to prevent Iran from taking the world hostage with a nuclear bomb. Instead, Iran is now using the JCPOA itself to blackmail the world to cede to its demands. Iranian officials are making hollow threats to walk away from the deal, knowing that the JCPOA has become too big to fail for its signatories. And as a result, most of the countries that were party to the deal are showing a lack of interest in dealing with Iran's testing of the deal's limits and activities that have not been explicitly addressed in its text.
The goal of the nuclear accord was to prevent war. While it prevented an immediate confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, it effectively fanned the flames of several other conflicts. It's time to recognize the Iranian regime for what it is and address the totality of its threats, instead of creating the false impression of success with a flawed deal that has been one step forward and two steps back.