London, 23 Jul – Because of its relationship with North Korea, in a few years Iran may have have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that will enable them to attack targets in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Additionally, after the expiration of the Iran nuclear deal, those missiles could be armed with nuclear weapons.
Foreign policy analysts can predict trends but are hesitant to do so in these tumultuous times. The American people didn’t vote for such dithering when they elected Donald Trump to the presidency last November, though. They wanted America to confront challenges before they become a threat. President Trump has done this by taking on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as calling out Iran for its missile plans.
According to Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, in his Fox News article, “Trump administration is now facing a much bigger problem: the potential for North Korea and Iran to collaborate on long-range missile technology that can be used to strike our allies and the homeland.” He adds, “In many respects, the evidence is right out in the open of past collaboration, according to some experts.”
In an interview with Fox News, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey explained, “The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles.” Lewis noted, “Over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”
Many experts have warned that Tehran and Pyongyang have been trading missile technology for many years. Still, there are those who downplay the relationship between Iran and North Korea. However, in less than a decade, the Iran nuclear deal will have lapsed, and Tehran will be free to use the nuclear research it already has done, along with its cooperation with Pyongyang on missile technology.
Fortunately, the Trump administration has considerable options to explore to prevent this from happening.
Kazianis outline these options, as follows. He writes:
1. We should “name and shame” any North Korean, Iranian or outside partners that are helping these rogue regimes collaborate on missile technologies. Pentagon and intelligence officials have told me on several occasions they have strong leads on who is helping facilitate these exchanges. It is time to shine a light on these groups or individuals—now. They need to be outed for the whole world to see and publicly shamed. The Trump administration should declare that if you help Pyongyang or Tehran build long-range missiles you are an enemy of the international community and will be treated accordingly. Such shaming should include those providing material or technical assistance or any banks, financial institutions or front companies passing along funds for such assistance between both nations.
2. With such entities out in the open, Team Trump should impose sanctions on such groups as soon as possible. The goal should be to drive up the costs for both sides and make them feel the financial pinch as much as possible.
3. We should get creative in how we try to stamp out such cooperation.
In a report by the National Bureau of Asian Research, released in 2012, author John S. Park offers the idea of using an “a monetary reward program to interdict components or technicians central to ballistic missile development.” He writes that, “Hiding in the open is a particularly effective tactic employed by North Korea. Contracting private Chinese companies to serve as middlemen to facilitate ‘cargo laundering’—a creative process of disassembling components and moving them through different logistics routes—enables North Korean state trading companies to utilize commercial shipping containers. Monetary rewards would offer a double payday for some Chinese companies, who could collect the commission fee from a North Korean client as well as the reward for anonymously providing a copy of the freight insurance to local authorities in busy Southeast Asian ports.”
Ending the threat of a North Korean assisted Iranian ICBM armed with a nuclear weapon is one of the greatest challenges America faces today. Washington must lead the effort to ensure more missile defense platforms are brought into the Middle East.