North Korea case is too dissimilar to be used as a cautionary tale for the Iran deal
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The agreements with Iran and North Korea are far more different than they are similar. The main differences were that the agreed framework with North Korea focused specifically on its plutonium program and failed to address uranium enrichment, and did not have sufficient implementation oversight. North Korea also had already produced more than enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon; this is not the case of Iran. The framework agreement with Iran includes eliminating the plutonium and severely restricting the uranium pathways, with extraordinarily complex monitoring and implementation. The verification measures already implemented under the JPOA and the new obligations anticipated in the final comprehensive agreement are far stronger and of longer duration than those in the Agreed Framework with North Korea. Under the agreement, Iran will not have enough nuclear material for a single nuclear weapon. In the 20 years since the Agreed Framework, the United States has developed more robust intelligence and verification capabilities that are, in any case, more effectively deployed towards a country such as Iran compared to the reclusive Hermit Kingdom.30
The North Korea case reinforces the need for the United States and others to comply with their obligations. The North Korea’s leaders have argued that one of the reasons it decided to break the Agreed Framework agreement was that the United States failed to comply with its obligation to provide more heavy oil fuel and assistance to North Korea. The United States must not give Iran an excuse to withdraw from a comprehensive agreement.
The North Korea case remains, nonetheless, the only case of the failure to successfully maintain safeguards agreements negotiated under the nonprolifera- tion treaty and a second such case must be avoided. Tehran, unlike Pyongyang, has to consider public opinion, which is strongly demanding the end of international pariah status and economically painful sanctions. Iran is not a democracy, but it is far from a dictatorship.