During the ongoing 76th session of the UN General Assembly, one of the most critical issues that may be discussed is Iranian regime’s nuclear program and the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was first agreed in 2015 between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany. With Iran’s nuclear issue on the forefront of media’s focus, last Wednesday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast, the second test in a week, saying that its patience with negotiations was wearing thin.
Following DPRK’s launching of two short-range ballistic missiles, Biden administration, which lacks credibility following Afghanistan debacle has sought to reassure its allies – South Korea and Japan in particular that it will not allow Pyongyang to infringe on neighboring countries. Ever since Joe Biden has entered the White House, he and his administration were busy in appeasing Iran as well as Houthis and Hamas, instead of taking any further steps in continuing dialogue with DPRK in resolving the tension in the Korean Peninsula as well lifting punitive sanctions which had been imposed on the country. While Washington is over-enthusiastic on Iran, it has not shown any honest intention in returning to negotiations with Pyongyang.
Commenting on Pyongyang’s latest launching on short-range missiles, the US Indo-Pacific Command said: “This activity highlights (North Korea’s) continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community. The US commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad”.
Although Biden is preoccupied with the resurgence of COVID-19, the fallout from the Afghanistan humiliating withdrawal, his old-age-complications and the diplomatic and strategic crisis with France, he needs to reach out to North Korea before it is too late.
Reports issued by the UN Security Council suggest that North Korea has been selling its technology to regimes in the Middle East such as Qatar, including Iran.
In February, Bloomberg revealed that Pyongyang and Tehran had been cooperating on long-range missile development projects since last year, adding that Iran’s Shahid Hajj Ali Movahed Research Center received “support and assistance” from North Korean missile specialists for a space launch vehicle, and that it was involved in shipments to Iran.
While few of the Biden’s key advisors are in favor of gaining trust of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and use him against China’s interest in the region, analysts say, such goal may not be accomplished as Pyongyang has decade-old relations with Beijing, while China is the only nation in region that has never abandoned DPRK during its difficult days. Moreover, for strategic and geopolitical factors, it is rather impossible for Kim Jong Un to embrace the US as a better ally than China. He most definitely will not do that.
In fact, DPRK’s relations with China should not be seen as a threat to peace in the Korean Peninsula, rather the growing relations between Pyongyang and Tehran as well as those Middle Eastern regimes is a matter of grave concern.
In my personal opinion, talks aimed at reviving the JCPOA appear to be at a standstill following six rounds of negotiations concluded with no positive results. While the US, France, Germany and the UK have all expressed their desire to revive the nuclear deal, even though the Iranian regime is currently violating all restrictions of the JCPOA and continuing to advance its nuclear program. Against this backdrop, profoundly consequential questions arise concerning policy toward Iran and its nuclear program. It is evidently clear that Iranian regime is trying to extort billions of dollars from the US along side numerous economic and strategic benefits as pre-condition of reviving the JCPOA. Reason behind such attitude of Iran is crystal clear. The regime is currently facing numerous challenges domestically, including the acute economic crisis, which may ultimately lead to its collapse – anytime in the nearest future. Instead of adopting any further steps of appeasing the Iranian regime, the US and the European countries must focus on pressuring the UNGA and the UNSC to seek answers from the Iranian regime concerning its secret nuclear activities.
To be more specific, the Iranian leaders must come clean about their nuclear activities and respond to the alarming questions raised by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, reported to a June board meeting in Vienna: “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the agency has conducted complementary (assessments). In the absence of such an explanation from Iran, I am deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at the three undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known by the agency”.
Grossi’s statements suggest that the Iranian regime was likely violating the nuclear deal even before the Trump administration pulled the US out of the JCPOA in 2018. The IAEA later reported that it had found anthropogenic uranium particles at two sites in Iran, including Abadeh in Fars province. The Abadeh site had reportedly been the venue for a project known as Marivan. It was built in the mid-1990s by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and managed by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, or SPND, the main entity in charge of the regime’s nuclear weapons program. The Abadeh site was built specifically for an SPND subsidiary, METFAZ, which specializes in research into and the building of high-explosive detonators.
It is important to point out that one of the most basic requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party, as well as one of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, is that the Iranian regime is required to reveal its nuclear activities to the IAEA — a condition it appears to have failed to comply with.
Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities have unfortunately shown that the regime is untrustworthy. As a result, the Biden administration and the European powers must make it clear at the UNGA that one of the major conditions for reviving the nuclear deal is that Iran must answer the IAEA’s questions.
Secondly, they must pressure the UNGA and the UNSC to take action as a result of Iran’s increasing nuclear defiance. While negotiations to revive the nuclear deal have been ongoing, the regime has been advancing its nuclear program, including spinning more centrifuges and enriching uranium at a much higher level, as well as producing uranium metal, all of which has brought it dangerously close to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
It is high time for the US and its western allies as well as the members countries of the United Nations Security Council to take immediate measures in imposing series of sanctions on Iran, block its trade with the international community and extend fullest support to the anti-regime and pro-democratic forces in Iran.
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