Implications of the North Korea Nuclear Deal

On the radar: 5 ideas on what the North Korea deal means; Why inspections matter; Iran sanctions beginning to bite; the Flawed logic of sanctions; Fordow no match for MOP; and Don't forget about Syria

March 1, 2012 | Edited by Mary Kaszynski

Implications - It is a good sign about new leader Kim Jong Un. It’s a small step, but could lead to bigger things. Serious peace talks with South Korea and Japan are the next step. And the food aid package is an important gesture of U.S. good will. Mark Fitzgerald, Peter Crail, and Leon Sigal discuss the US-DPRK deal, from the LA Times.

Importance of Inspections - The US-North Korea deal is “a very modest first step,” Ploughshares Fund executive director Philip Yun told The Washington Post, and the key to the agreement is IAEA inspections of the Yongbyon facility.

--”WE’ve not had anyone there was a lot of speculation about what was going on,” Yun explained. “What’s great about [the deal] is that we’re going to have people on the ground, we’re going to be able to make assessments, and we’re going to be able to make decisions based on facts of what we find there.”

Backgrounder - This isn’t the first time that North Korea has entered into nuclear negotiations. The Council on Foreign Relations has a comprehensive backgrounder on the Six-Party talks, from 2003 to today. Conclusion: “in the end, few analysts believe North Korea has any intention of giving up its nuclear program and argue that North Korea makes concessions to gain the food and fuel aid it needs to survive. ”

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Quote - Air Force chief of staff Gen. Schwartz on a military strike against Iran.“Everything we have to do has to have an objective. What is the objective? Is it to eliminate [Iran's nuclear program]? Is it to delay? Is it to complicate? What is the national security objective?” From Spence Ackerman at Danger Room.

Biting sanctions - Energy Information Administration’s report on the global oil market, required by the Iran sanctions provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, determined that “ sanctions against Iran are strangling its oil exports even before they go into effect,” Reutersreports.

Flawed strategy - The administration seems committed to ramping up sanctions on Iran, “a strategy of coercive diplomacy that has a fundamental design flaw,” writes Martin Indyk in The New York Times. “Iran may well decide that rather than negotiate a compromise, its best choice is actually to cross the nuclear weapons threshold, with fateful consequences for all.”

--”The only way out of the vicious circle is for Khamenei to understand that Obama is not seeking his overthrow...But how, while pursuing sanctions designed to cut Iran’s economic jugular, can Obama credibly signal this to Khamenei without opening himself up to the charge of weakness?”

Pyongyang to Washington - “In another sign of warming relations between two wartime foes, a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator will attend a security conference in the United States,” AP reports.

AIPAC advice - Tensions are high ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Netenyahu’s visit to Washington this Monday and President Obama’s speech at the AIPAC conference this Sunday.

--Paul Pillar has some advice: “The president should make it clear that if the Israeli government launches a war, it will not have U.S. support...he should—and undoubtedly will—express continued strong U.S. support for the security of Israel. He also should—but probably will not—discuss the consequences of a possible military strike on Iran.”

Different stories -”The United States and North Korea have each issued statements about the results of last week's meetings in China, but the two sides seem to be reading from two different sheets of paper,” Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin writes. The U.S. statement details North Korea’s agreement to halt nuclear activities and missile testing, but does not mention future discussion about lifting sanctions or providing light water reactors, both mentioned in the North Korean statement.

Fordow vulnerable? - Iran’s Fordow site may be vulnerable to the Pentagon’s new bunker-buster, U.S. officials say, with one caveat: “Hardened facilities require multiple sorties. The question is, how many turns do you get at the apple?” Joby Warrick reports for The Washington Post.

”Zone of trust” - “America more time than Israel in determining when the moment of decision has finally been reached,” writes Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in The New York Times. “What is needed is an ironclad American assurance that if Israel refrains from acting in its own window of opportunity — and all other options have failed to halt Tehran’s nuclear quest — Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran while it is still within its power to do so.”

Syria’ s WMD - All eyes are on Iran, but don’t forget about Syria’s massive chemical weapons stockpile. “The United States and regional powers -- including Saudi Arabia and Iran -- need to start planning now to keep Syria's WMD out of terrorist hands if the Assad regime falls,” Charles Blair writes in The Bulletin.