Will Iran Become the Next North Korea?

(Foreign Affairs) Philip Gordon and Amos Yadlin - Leaders and populations around the Middle East, especially in Israel and the Gulf states, are asking whether Washington's apparent willingness to live with North Korean nuclear weapons - even those that can now be delivered to the U.S. itself - foreshadows what is to come in Iran. The right approach to Iran today is not to give up on negotiations, which would leave the disastrous alternatives of accepting an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran, but to make such negotiations work. Iran is a more open and dynamic society than North Korea. It has an unpopular government, an educated middle class, and a young population eager to join the international community, which makes the regime more susceptible to pressure and to incentives. It would be naive to believe that any Iranian government - even one no longer particularly hostile to Israel - would entirely abandon decades of work to develop a nuclear energy industry. But it would also be unwise not to test the proposition that the right combination of incentives and disincentives could lead different Iranian leaders to accept meaningful limits and effective monitoring of that industry. A key difference between North Korea and Iran is that a military option to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb remains viable as a last resort. In North Korea, military preemption has long been precluded by the strategic reality that most of the South Korean population, including the capital city of Seoul, lies within range of thousands of North Korean rockets, and all of North Korea's neighbors, including South Korea, oppose military action to prevent proliferation. A preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear program would, of course, be costly and problematic as well, but given the costs and consequences of an Iranian nuclear capability, it remains a real option - one many of Iran's neighbors would support. Even though a military option for Iran is far from ideal, the U.S. and its allies need to keep the option viable. Philip Gordon served as White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf Region (2013-15) and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2009-13). Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

2017-08-04 00:00:00

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