Lessons on dealing with nuclear rows

North Korea has agreed to declare and disable all its nuclear facilities by the end of 2007. Who says diplomacy and the right aid package can’t get results?

The DPRK may be part of the “axis of evil” but it’s a fairly quiet part right now. After all the understandable concern when it tested a nuclear bomb one might have expected a more hostile confrontation between the two.

True, there were some hairy moments, but promises of oil and food seem to have won the day — to the point the US is looking at taking Korea off the list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Bryan over at Hot Air, while pointing out that the deal deserves some measure of skepticism, notes that the DPRK is in trouble: famine, flooding and economic woes abound. World Vision said the flooding was so bad this year’s rice harvest was destroyed, along with bridges and powerlines.

It’s possible Korea can no longer afford to maintain its nuclear programme, although dictatorships don’t have a track record of such concerns.

There are lessons here that can be applied to Iran. The deal shows just how successful negotiations can be when needs are clearly identified and dealt with; in 2006 Bush vowed to give diplomacy “every chance” in Korea, and the results are there for all to see.

Korea’s woes do not exist in Iran, so there’s no clear incentive on the Iranian side to ender into proper talks. Ahmadinejad is the other factor. There is unlikely to be a resolution so long as he and his ilk are in power. But that doesn’t mean a proper forum can’t be set up to resolve the issue diplomatically.

Hans Blix has suggested a guarantee that Iran will not be attacked and a normalization of relations with the United States as the cornerstone of an agreement. It won’t be enough in and of itself but would be a start.

At the height of the nuclear row, there was speculation of and backing for a military strike against Korea, much as there is talk of planned offensives against the Iranian military. Such speculation came to nothing and eventually petered out as the diplomatic effort gathered momentum despite the occasional setback. However, I can’t rule out the chance that the threat or fear of attack had a bearing on Korea’s diplomatic amiability.

I also have a slightly more cynical theory: the US administration could not have sold strikes on Korea to the public because it’s just not on their radar. Judging by this video, some Americans’ grasp of geography is tenuous at best:


(Part of a longer montage here.)

All levity aside, the prospect of a deal in North Korea does raise the possibility of a peaceful solution in Iran. I would put forward the promise of investment in the Islamic republic’s oil and gas fields. Direct US finance would be problematic for the Iranian government, but cash through a third party (perhaps the UN or EU) might work.

Let’s see what happens.

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