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August 15, 2017 5:06 pm

Don’t Let Iran Copy North Korea and ‘Blackmail’ US Over Nukes, Former Seventh Fleet Commander Declares

avatar by Ben Cohen

Iranian and North Korean military officials during a past gathering in Pyonyang. Photo: File.

The former commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet in the Pacific Ocean has warned of an even more dangerous nuclear crisis erupting with Iran than with North Korea.

“We don’t want to end up in the same situation with Iran, where we are being blackmailed,” Vice Admiral John Bird said on Tuesday.

Speaking on a conference call convened on Tuesday by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) — a Washington, DC-based think tank — that examined the Iranian and North Korean drives to obtain nuclear weapons, Vice Admiral Bird observed that recent US policy had “sent a signal to the world that if you have nuclear weapons, you are somewhat protected against us.”

Bird — who commanded the Japan-based Seventh Fleet in the Pacific from 2008-10 — asserted that a nuclear-armed Iran was a greater danger than North Korea, whose current nuclear saber-rattling has involved threats to launch nuclear-armed missiles at Guam and bury the “Japanese archipelago beneath the Pacific.”

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Bird described the North Korean regime’s current position as a “defensive posture.” North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, is adamant that the possession of nuclear weapons is essential to his regime’s survival, but it’s not as likely to deploy them as Iran, Bird said.

“As crazy and wacky and murderous as Kim is, he will be rational in terms of regime survival,” Bird said. “Iran would be more aggressive and would want to carry out their threats against Israel and even the US.” Bird added that like North Korea, Iran could end up as “the land of lousy options if we don’t prevent them from getting nuclear weapons.”

Stephen Rademaker — who served as an assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration — told the same call that “sanctions could be more effective against Iran than against North Korea — the ultimate hermit kingdom.”

Rademaker said that the ability to trade globally was a key component of the Iranian regime’s willingness to affirm the deal. Contrastingly, he said, North Korea regards integration into the global economy as a threat to the regime’s survival.

“Integration would open the eyes of (the North Korean) people to what they’ve been missing out on,” Rademaker said.

Comparing the Iran nuclear deal with the 1994 agreement reached between the North Koreans and the Clinton administration — which collapsed in 2002 when the Pyongyang regime exited the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — Rademaker said that under the terms of both, “North Korea and Iran are in a better position to pursue nuclear weapons at the end than they are at the beginning.”

Even if the JCPOA survives its projected timeframe of fifteen years, all restrictions on Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons will be lifted in 2030. Both Bird and Rademaker were skeptical that either regime change or a radical turnaround in the postures of both regimes could be achieved by diplomatic means.

On the much-vaunted military cooperation between Iran and North Korea, particularly on ballistic missile development, Bird and Rademaker agreed that the US and its allies need to stringently monitor weapons and technology transfers between the two regimes. “We need to be watching to our full capabilities to see if North Korea is doing that with Iran and other bad actors,” Bird said. “It’s a real concern that North Korea will do that.”

Writing for the subscription-based NK News website, North Korea specialist Maria Rosaria Coduti noted on Tuesday that the international community has been aware since 2002 “that Pyongyang and Tehran have cooperated on missiles, as the resemblance between Iran’s Shahab-3 and the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) Nodong missiles makes clear.”

“There have been a lot of unconfirmed reports about the missile and nuclear program collaboration between the two states, as well as of Iranian missile experts stationed at a facility in North Korea near the Chinese border,” Coduti said.

Coduti observed that Iran “has strategic interests in cooperating with the DPRK” on military development. “Improved naval capabilities with sophisticated ballistic missiles enhance Tehran’s deterrent power toward the US both in terms of creating high costs for a military confrontation with Washington and in Iran’s ability to threaten U.S. ships in the Straits of Hormuz,” Coduti said. “And should Iran obtain a 2500-mile strike range, its capability to militarily threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. will increase considerably.”

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