Failing to understand linkage between adherence to Iran nuclear deal and a successful diplomatic solution in North Korea could lead to a two-front nuclear crisis
Allies also might lose faith. Throughout the long-simmering nuclear crisis with North Korea, the Bush and Obama administrations managed to preserve solidarity with South Korea and Japan. Going forward, any sustainable solution to this crisis will require implementation of a joint U.S.-South Korea strategy backed by Japan. Moon Jae-In, South Korea’s newly elected president, is a strong proponent of engagement with the North, and both Seoul and Tokyo are desperate to contain the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. It’s hardly an exaggeration to suggest that both would be apoplectic if, by repudiating the nuclear accord with Iran, the U.S. effectively cut off the path to a diplomatic solution on the peninsula.
The odds against a negotiated agreement with North Korea are preternaturally long, but it would be the height of irresponsibility not to test its possibility. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently offered the welcome suggestion that the U.S. is open to diplomacy and reassurance to Pyongyang that the U.S. is not intent on regime change. Surely, both he and others in the administration—Generals James Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John Kelly in particular, all of whom reportedly lobbied for Trump to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord the last time around—understand how hollow those words will ring if, the next time certification is in play, they fail to persuade the president. The least one can hope is that they will see the linkage, because it’s a pretty good bet that this president won’t. And it’s just as good a bet that, by failing to peek just around the corner, he would be creating the prospect of a two-front nuclear crisis that America and the world can ill afford.
If the U.S. congress rejects the nuclear deal with Iran, it will have multiple negative reprecussions for U.S. interests and security. The most likely impact of U.S. rejection of the deal will be a gradual collapse of the sanctions regime as our partners have no interest in reopening negotiations with Iran and are already starting to renew trade relations. Additionally, rejection of the deal will damage U.S. credibility as a global leader and its diplomatic capital for many years as the U.S. was critical in forming the consensus for the deal in the first place.