REX, WITH NORTH KOREA, STRATEGIC
SAVVY, NOT STRATEGIC PATIENCE!
We are Crazy, so Waltz Me Around Again Willy!
Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta
Updated, April 30, 2017
Unafraid, Bi-partisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom
A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proclaimed the ending of the doctrine of strategic patience with rogue regimes like nuclear North Korea. At the U.N., however, he seemed to be suggesting we can seek a resolution of the crisis through economic pressure and diplomacy. In response, the North Korean regime fired a ballistic missile. It exploded but the response tells all about the North Korean willingness to find any meaningful compromise. We’ve tried such solutions for a few decades. They have not worked.
The basic theme of North Korean response can be posited as “We are crazy, so, Waltz me around again Willie.” The dictators, father and son, only used our diplomacy as a respite to advance their nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. In our view, more negotiation will be interpreted by both North Korea and Iran as more of Obama’s strategic patience.
Yes, this time China is more helpful. Donald, Secretary of Defense Mattis and NSA H.R. McMaster deserve credit for using the attack on the Syrian airport in the midst of dinner with the Chinese president to change Chinese perceptions. They do have economic clout with North Korea. Although we are not convinced Beijing wants to replace the friendly communist regime on its borders with another South Korean-type one, they are already convinced them that freezing North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons is in their interests.
Don´t we know the steps of this U.S. - North Korean waltz by now? Menacing threats against democratic U.S. allies, South Korea and/or Japan, while testing WMD or its delivery system. “We are crazy,” is the implicit message, “and you better send a high level person to mollify us and give our starving country (above all its nomenclature and military) economic aid.”
President Clinton fell into the trap after sending special envoy Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang in 1994. In October 2000, he sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her successor, Condi Rice, described Albright’s mission rather unkindly as her “… somewhat infamous visit…” complete with a stadium presentation of more than 100,000 North Koreans in a “cultural performance…” intended to invoke a presidential visit. But the intended goal of verifying U.N. inspections of nuclear development and turning over spent fuel rods was not achieved.
In October 2008, before the presidential election, the North Korean dictator tried to lure another high envoy into his hermit kingdom. President Bush initially rejected that option. “No! That would really legitimize him!”
But Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, nevertheless dittoed Madeleine’s mistake. She drew criticism from Vice President Dick Cheney on how she tried to reach a nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. He recorded Rice saying to Bush, ‘“Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don´t always get a written agreement.”’ Calling Rice´s advice on this issue “utterly misleading,” Cheney further complained that she made "... concession after concession to North Korea and turned a blind eye to their misdeeds.”
Sadly, some of her proposals were approved by Bush. North Korea was removed by Rice from the State Department´s list of terrorist-sponsoring states! “It was a sad moment,” commented Cheney, reversal of so much of what we had accomplished in the area of non-proliferation in the first term.”. Recalled Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, “Rice and Ambassador Christopher Hill, [the diplomat who convinced Condi to appease North Korea and is now pontificating on American TV], seemed to believe they could obtain North Korea’s agreement to end its WMD programs.”
In 2014, President Obama sent DNI James Clapper on a secret, mission to North Korea, ostensibly to secure the release of two hostages, which he did. But we still don´t know all the details of the presidential message. What was he negotiating about? Was it once again waltz me around again Willy?
Rex Tillerson must not repeat the mistake of the other two secretaries of state. Rather than giving in to their usual pattern of blackmail, hostage-taking, promises, withdrawal from negotiations, U.S. high level visits, resumption of negotiations, more lies and more threats. Trump and his top team are surely looking at options, while they sit out this dance. We hope they are drafting other options -- something similar to what Bill Clinton seriously considered before he sent Madeleine Albright to waltz with Willy.
Our chosen option must be framed by strategic savvy, rather than going back to strategic patience. Besides strong economic measures in combination with China, we have only three options. One is to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program in a single, massive surprise strike. . However this option is extremely dangerous and very costly.
A second one is to freeze North Korea’s nuclear testing by preventive cyber warfare or other very limited, military means such as a strike on the launching pad and hope they get the message. This is unlikely to provoke an attack on Seoul. The young dictator likes his power, big parades, his wife, the food that his skinny people never get, and killing an occasional relative now and then. He doesn’t want to die and he knows if he attacks Seoul, he will.
The third option is bankrupt --strategic patience.If we simply engage in in negotiation with North Korea before showing we mean business, they will cheat, and will also continue aiding Iran in their own development of nuclear weapons and deliveries systems. The decision to negotiate will be surely interpreted by foes and friends as continuation of Obama ‘s strategic patience. Strategic savvy dictates we must not allow North Korea to continue their nuclear testing.
NO MORE WALTZES PLEASE, WILLY!
Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea
By Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham
February 28, 2017
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 415
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This analysis argues that Iran is steadily making progress towards a nuclear weapon and is doing so via North Korea. Iran is unwilling to submit to a years-long freeze of its military nuclear program as stipulated by the July 2015 Vienna Nuclear Deal. North Korea is ready and able to provide a clandestine means of circumventing the deal, which would allow the Iranians to covertly advance that nuclear program. At the same time, Iran is likely assisting in the upgrading of certain North Korean strategic capacities.
While the Vienna Nuclear Deal (VND) is focused on preventing (or at least postponing) the development of nuclear weapons (NW) in Iran, its restrictions are looser with regard to related delivery systems (particularly nuclear-capable ballistic missiles) as well as to the transfer of nuclear technology by Iran to other countries. Moreover, almost no limits have been placed on the enhancement of Tehran's military nuclear program outside Iran. North Korea (NK) arguably constitutes the ideal such location for Iran.
The nuclear and ballistic interfaces between the two countries are long-lasting, unique, and intriguing. The principal difference between the countries is that while NK probably already possesses NW, Iran aspires to acquire them but is subject to the VND. Iran has the ability, however, to contribute significantly to NK’s nuclear program, in terms of both technology (i.e., by upgrading gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment) and finance (and there is an irony in this, as it is thanks to its VND-spurred economic recovery that Iran is able to afford it).
This kind of strategic, military-technological collaboration is more than merely plausible. It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that such a collaboration is already underway.
This presumption assumes that Iran is unwilling to lose years to the freeze on its military nuclear program. It further assumes that NK is ready and able to furnish a route by which Iran can clandestinely circumvent the VND, thus allowing it to make concrete progress on its NW program. And finally, it assumes that the ongoing, rather vague interface between the two countries reflects Iranian advances towards NW. The following components and vectors comprise that interface.
From the 1990s onward, dozens – perhaps hundreds – of NK scientists and technicians apparently worked in Iran in nuclear and ballistic facilities. Ballistic missile field tests were held in Iran, for instance near Qom, where the NK missiles Hwasong-6 (originally the Soviet Scud-C, which is designated in Iran as Shehab-2) and Nodong-1 (designated in Iran as Shehab-3) were tested. Moreover, in the mid-2000s, the Shehab-3 was tentatively adjusted by Kamran Daneshjoo, a top Iranian scientist, to carry a nuclear warhead.
Furthermore, calculations were made that were aimed at miniaturizing a nuclear implosion device in order to fit its dimensions and weight to the specifications of the Shehab-3 re-entry vehicle. These, together with benchmark tests, were conducted in the highly classified facility of Parchin. Even more significantly, Iranian experts were present at Punggye-ri, the NK nuclear test site, when such tests were carried out in the 2000s.
Syria served concurrently as another important platform for Iran – until the destruction by Israel of the plutonium-based nuclear reactor that had been constructed in Syria by NK. According to some reports, not only were the Iranians fully aware of that project in real time, but the project was heavily financed by Tehran. Considering Iranian interests, it was probably intended as a backup for the heavy water plutonium production reactor of Iran’s military nuclear program, and possibly as an alternative to the Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz in the event that it is dismantled.
While the Iranian heavy water plutonium production reactor differed from the NK gas-graphite reactor, the uranium enrichment routes of both countries are based on the gas centrifuge technique. In that respect, Iran seems to be ahead of NK, particularly in developing and manufacturing advanced centrifuges of carbon fiber rotors.
A meaningful event took place in September 2012, when Daneshjoo, then the Iranian Minister of Science and Technology, signed an agreement with NK establishing formal cooperation. The agreement formally addressed such civil applications as “information technology, energy, environment, agriculture and food”. However, the memorandum of the agreement was ratified by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei has since clarified that the agreement is an "outcome of the fact that Iran and NK have common enemies, because the arrogant powers do not accept independent states." It is reasonable to infer that the agreement went far beyond its alleged civilian sphere.
The September 2012 agreement was probably intended to mask an evolving Iranian-NK cryptic interface, intended by Iran to compensate technologically for the following development. About two months earlier, President Obama had sent this secret message to Iran's leaders: "We are prepared to open a direct channel to resolve the nuclear agreement if you are prepared to do the same thing and authorize it at the highest levels and engage in a serious discussion on these issues." This message paved the way towards talks that started in Kazakhstan in February 2013, continued through the November 2013 Geneva and March 2015 Lausanne interim “Framework” agreements, and culminated in the VND. The final agreement involved freezing substantial portions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for largely decreased economic sanctions on Iran.
In tandem with the 2012-13 events, a permanent offshoot of Iranian missile experts was established in NK that supported the successful field test of a long-range ballistic missile in December 2012. Ballistic, or ballistic together with nuclear warhead capabilities, are presumably included in the Iranian-NK missile cooperation. Iran and NK upgraded the Shehab-3/Nodong-1 liquid-fueled motor missiles in a quite similar (though not identical) fashion, with Iran producing the Ghadr (range 1600 km) and Emad (range 1700 km) derivatives. In addition, components of the liquid-fueled motor missile Musudan (also called the BM-25), which has a range of 2,500-4,000 km and was successfully field-tested in NK in 2016, have been supplied to Iran in the past by NK. The more advanced solid-fueled motor technology, which included the NK KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile and the Iranian Sajjil missile (range 2,000 km), was apparently developed collaboratively by the two countries. Also, a new NK ballistic missile test site was revealed in 2016 in Guemchang-ri – and it closely resembles the Iranian ballistic missile test site near Tabriz.
A delegation of Iranian nuclear experts headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, director of the Iranian NW project, was covertly present at the third NK nuclear test in February 2013. This test was apparently based – unlike the previous plutonium-core-based field tests – on an HEU (highly enriched uranium) core nuclear device (as, presumably, were the fourth and fifth nuclear tests, which took place in 2016). In 2015, information exchanges and reciprocal delegation visits reportedly took place that were aimed at the planning of nuclear warheads. These include four NK delegations that visited Iran up until June 2015, one month before the VND was completed. It may be noted that in August 2015, a new gas centrifuge hall apparently became operational in the NK main uranium enrichment facility.
Finally, in April 2016, a remarkable clash arose between Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) during a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. They locked horns over planes that fly between Iran and NK, which should land and be rigorously inspected in China so as to ensure the prevention of NK proliferation of nuclear and missile technology, let alone actual nuclear weapons, to Iran. Sherman charged that this had not been handled with sufficient care by the Obama administration.
All in all, a major consequence of the VND is that the Obama administration shot the US in the foot. It is expected that the terms of the VND and the abundance of money transacted as a result with Iran – about US$150 billion – will substantially facilitate the advancement of the NW and ballistic missile programs of both Iran and NK.
The chronology, contents, and features of the overt interface between Iran and NK mark an ongoing evolutionary process in terms of weapons technologies at the highest strategic level. The two countries have followed fairly similar nuclear and ballistic courses, with considerable, largely intended, reciprocal technological complementarity. The numerous technological common denominators that underlie the NW and ballistic missile programs of Iran and NK cannot be regarded as coincidental. Rather, they likely indicate – in conjunction with geopolitical and economic drives –a much broader degree of undisclosed interaction between Tehran and Pyongyang.
The current Iranian-NK interface, which appears to be fully active, presumably serves as a productive substitute for the Iranian activities prohibited by the VND. It enables Iran, in other words, to continue its pursuit of NW. If not strictly monitored by the western intelligence communities, this cooperation might take the shape of conveyance from NK to Iran of weapons-grade fissile material, weaponry components, or, in a worst-case scenario, completed NW. To an appreciable degree, Iran is simultaneously assisting in the upgrading of NK strategic capacities as well. The Trump administration would be well advised to meticulously and rigidly ascertain that such developments do not take place.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology, who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Dany Shoham is an expert in the field of weapons of mass destruction, who served as a senior intelligence analyst in the Israel Defense Forces.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
U.S. MISTAKES ON NORTH KOREA PROVIDE LESSONS FOR DEALING WITH IRAN
By Jiri Valenta and Leni Valenta
Fool us twice? Shame on us. Secretary of State John Kerry has just followed the Ayatollah´s Pied Piper, Hassan Rohani, into Iranian quicksand.
Doesn´t Mr. Kerry realizes that some of his predecessors, first Democrats, then Republicans, engaged in similar kinds of negotiations with duplicitous North Korea? Here´s the record; Jimmy Carter was sent as Clinton´s envoy to North Korea in 1994 to execute an “Agreed Framework.” It specified that America would provide oil and food and build two light water reactors for North Korea, in return for Pyongyang ending plutonium production, halting its nuclear program and returning spent fuel rods. However, during the negotiations, Carter dropped two key demands that U.N., on-site inspections resume.
President Bill Clinton asked Kim Jong II to resume inspections. Despite Kim´s refusal, the U.S. sent North Korea 600,000 tons of grain. In October 2000, Clinton´s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, conducted further negotiations with Pyongyang. She quaffed 12 hours of their lies and deceptions along with the wine and delicacies, but what did she achieve? The North Koreans again permitted the U.N. inspections dropped by Carter, but the agreement was not verifiable. The agreement to turn over spent fuel rods was dropped. The North Koreans reprocessed and used them.
Albright deserves great credit for her dealings with the former Yugoslav crisis. I know a lot about Albright as her father, leading scholar Josef Korbel, was my friend, mentor and employer for a year. Madeleine convinced President Clinton that war was the only recourse to prevent even larger killing fields in Yugoslavia. Sadly, she knew the Far East far less. The only truth the North Koreans appear to have told her was that their country was in dire straits.
Condoleezza Rice was clearly just as naïve as indicated by both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in their memoirs. I know Condi too. She wrote her first academic essay, ¨The Czechoslovak Army¨ in Communist Armies in Politics, with me. More on my relationships with these women is in my forthcoming memoir.
In dealing with the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, being built with help from North Korea. Condi recommended taking the issue to the U.N. Wrote Cheney, “I strongly recommended that we ought to take it (the reactor) out.” He further summed up that “Condi was on the wrong side of all of these (nuclear) issues.” She also recommended and achieved the removal of North Korea from a list of state sponsored terrorists. Neither can I forgive her that as National Security Advisor she ignored the vital pre-911 memo warning that Al Qaeda might hi-jack planes to attack America. One of the problems with American politics and Condi is that the time required for self-promotion subtracts from the time required to research and do the job. From what they wrote, Dick and Donald agree.
So what should we do? As with Carter, Albright and Rice, the present Kerry deal falls short of removing from Iran its potential to make nuclear weapons. Already there is disagreement over the agreement. Rouhani, known to be a strong supporter of Iran´s nuclear program, is already crowing that the agreement gives them the right to enrich uranium. Kerry is saying it doesn´t. The agreement says Iran can do it up to 5%. There should be NO enrichment! The only thing we may have bought is a little time.
Albright recently indicated in an RIAC blog with former Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov that we should work with Russia, which has its own stake in Iranian behavior. It´s an idea we have been promoting. Can America, with Russia´s help, prevent the making of a Middle East North Korea? This may well be one of the most serious issues our President, the U.S. Congress and the America and people face.