The Way Forward
On August 29, 2017, there appeared to be a movement toward democracy for the rogue regime in Tehran, which could serve U.S. interests. Iran has a viable coalition of dissidents who might move the country away from a dictatorship and toward democracy.
Such a policy would be a disaster if applied to North Korea, which lacks a self-sustaining opposition with credible anti-regime elements. On July 31, 2017, Rep. Ted Poe concurred with that assessment, as he focused specifically on the NCRI.
If the summit between Trump and Kim fails, then it is likely that the president will understand Israel’s intelligence cache makes Pyongyang more susceptible to coercive diplomacy. Further, he may broaden sanctions on Pyongyang and Tehran and instruct a team to persuade European counterparts to implement additional sanctions on them. He could also press Iran to extend the sunset clause, which lengthens the time Iran has to acquire nuclear weapons, and extend sunset provisions. At the same time, he could provide Tehran with incentives such as sanctions relief, but not up front as his predecessor did. This could curb the rogues’ ballistic-missile programs. As CIA Director, Pompeo said, “There is a long history of proliferation ties between North Korea and Iran,” and we know technology transfers make it easier to maintain and grow a weapons program.
Trump is strengthening his “America First” platform by addressing those who threaten the United States—namely Pyongyang and Tehran. The Trump team embodies an ethos of service—one that is civic as well as military.
Raymond Tanter served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, personal representative of the secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @ProfRTanter.
Ivan Sascha Sheehan is the incoming executive director of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore and a specialist on U.S. foreign policy, terrorism, and counterterrorism. Follow him on Twitter @ProfSheehan.