I’m … reasonably sure Kim was already aware of the status of the Iran nuclear deal. But the fact that he was willing to meet POTUS even after Trump tore up the Iran agreement *is* an interesting wrinkle to yesterday’s summit. You can read that cynically, as evidence that maybe he has no real intention of signing a deal with Trump after all, fearing that he’ll end up doing to him what he did to the brain trust in Tehran.
More likely, though, the North Koreans understand American politics well enough to grasp a key difference between the Iran and NK nuke negotiations. Any diplomatic agreement signed by a Democratic White House (and unratified by the Senate) is at risk of being undone by a Republican one because Republicans are the more hawkish party. For the same reason, though, any diplomatic agreement signed by a Republican White House *isn’t* at risk of being undone by a Democratic one. Democrats will never upset a fragile understanding reached with an enemy nation for fear of setting the two countries on course for war. It’s Iran’s misfortune, Kim might believe, that they inked their agreement with a Democrat instead of a Republican.
Either way, this is some fine trolling by our former “partners in peace.”
“We don’t know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that he would not cancel the agreement before returning home,” Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht was quoted as saying by IRNA new agency.
Nobakht questioned Trump’s credibility. “This man does not represent the American people, and they will surely distance themselves from him at the next elections,” he said…
“We are not optimistic about these talks … The United States, especially Mr Trump, has undermined international agreements and has unilaterally withdrawn from them,” Bahram Qasemi said.
Why is Trump willing to deal with the monsters in Pyongyang but not the monsters in Tehran? I can think of several possibilities. Iran was Obama’s project and therefore Bad whereas North Korea is Trump’s project and therefore Good. North Korea is much further along in threatening the U.S. than Iran is, having developed functioning nukes and an intercontinental delivery system, whereas Iran is still momentarily a few steps behind. North Korea is an isolated regime, conceivably susceptible to a charm offensive that would trade economic benefits for liberalization, whereas Iran is an expansionist regime pursuing its own interests in conflict with America’s.
Whichever answer you prefer, though, you’re left wondering how Trump would react if the mullahs invited him to a summit to hash out their differences. It’s not true, after all, that POTUS is flatly unwilling to deal with them. What he’s unwilling to do is stick with the terms of Obama’s deal. If, though, the regime reached out to him and offered him an opportunity that not even Obama was granted — a direct meeting with Khamenei or, more likely, Rouhani — would he say no? If Trump is willing to build up Kim’s prestige for little more than a few gassy promises about denuclearization, why wouldn’t Iran try to take advantage? Maybe the answer lies in another key difference between Iran and North Korea. The North might be willing to momentarily lay aside its devout anti-Americanism because it needs economic relief badly and soon. Whereas Iran, having been granted new access to European markets from Obama’s nuclear deal, just isn’t as desperate for detente. Especially if their new pressure campaign on Europe succeeds in keeping the money flowing.
Bibi Netanyahu is taking no chances, though. He congratulated Trump today on his rapprochement with Kim while reminding him that pressure on Iran is the way to go:
“I congratulate US President Donald Trump for the historic summit in Singapore,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is an important step in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”
“President Trump also takes a tough stance against Iran’s attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, as well as against its aggression in the Middle East. This is leaving its mark on the Iranian economy,” he continued, referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 pact last month.
“Trump’s policy is an important development for Israel, the region and the entire world,” Netanyahu added.
The argument from MAGA Nation in defense of the North Korean summit is that there’s really no choice at this point. It’s either high-stakes diplomacy or war. When you’re dealing with an enemy who’s nuclear armed and ready to fire, you do what you’ve gotta do to avert mushroom clouds. I’m sympathetic to that — but the same logic applies to Iran too, right? If the mullahs shrug over the end of the nuclear deal and fire up the centrifuges, testing a successful nuke by, say, the beginning of Trump’s second term, Trump has no choice but to dial them up and ask to hug it out, replete with lots of rhetorical slobber about how much the ayatollahs love their people. If that’s wrong, why is it wrong? A precedent has been set. A credible nuclear threat means you get an expenses-paid vacation to hobnob with the president of the United States. Follow the precedent.
Exit question: Where does Iran get off on saying that the U.S. can’t be trusted to keep its promises in international talks?
Pence told Senate GOP that military exercises in Korea will continue, per Sen. Gardner
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) June 12, 2018
NEW: Pence’s press sec tells @lachlan that reports he said military exercises with Korea will continue are “false”
— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 12, 2018
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) June 12, 2018