Iran and North Korea: A Tale of Two (Would-be) Nuclear Powers

Iran and North Korea have both had ambitions to develop nuclear power. Iran is a security threat to America and Israel, while North Korea is not (and probably never has been). Iran is a security threat because the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to pursue the operation of a nuclear program, despite warnings and sanctions from other nations designed to curb the regime’s nuclear ambitions. Iran claims that nuclear power will be used to provide energy, however many other nations believe that Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has long defied the wishes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United States, and several European states that have been attempting to discourage the Iranians from operating a nuclear program. IAEA inspectors left Iran in late February 2012 after being denied access to a site where it was believed that nuclear weapons development was taking place. Iran has accused Israel of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists who died in mysterious car bombings. Yet nothing the rest of the world does seems to curb the Iranians desire to enrich uranium and develop nuclear power.

North Korea is a country that has existed under a military dictatorship for over the last 30 years. At times, the country has pursued the production of nuclear power and has suffered economic sanctions from Western countries for continuing to attempt to enrich uranium, which can used to build a nuclear weapon. North Korea has recently agreed to halt development of its nuclear program and allow inspectors from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency to enter the country to ensure that uranium enrichment had been stopped at a particular facility; in turn, the United States has agreed to provide food aid to the country. If North Korea complies with this new agreement, then the threat posed by this regime will have effectively been neutralized to the rest of the world, particularly South Korea.

Iran and North Korea are similar in that they both apparently wanted to develop nuclear weapons. Both nations have been isolated by large blocs of the world community at one time or another–Iran is now being isolated by the US and some EU member states, but Russia still seems willing to do business with the belligerent nation. North Korea has suffered severe food shortages over the previous decades; and the border between it and South Korea is diligently monitored by the South Koreans, who regularly perform drills to prepare for the possibility of an attack from their northern neighbor.

Which Threat is Worse?

What is different between Iran and North Korea is that Iran has not yet stopped its nuclear program while the North Koreans are now willing to come to the bargaining table. Even though North Korea has withdrawn from negotiations in the past, there is hope that with this latest round of negotiations and agreements, the nation will finally give up its nuclear ambitions for good.

But what of Iran?

Israel has said that it will not wait longer than a few months to perform a military strike to destroy nuclear facilities in Iran. President Barack Obama has urged the Israeli leaders to give sanctions and negotiations time to work, in the hopes that Iran will be willing to halt its nuclear program.

I believe that the Israeli’s can and will strike Iran, and that the nation will unilaterally choose to do if Iran does not back down.

If war does break out between Israel and Iran, all of the work that the United States has done in the name of nation-building in the Middle East will be undone. From the looks of the recent protests against the US in the Middle East, there may not be much progress left to be undone.

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