Non-nuclear Iran ravaged by sanctions : Why US flirts with nuclear N. Korea | Sunday Observer

Non-nuclear Iran ravaged by sanctions : Why US flirts with nuclear N. Korea

Why is America cozying up to nuclear-armed, totalitarian North Korea but savaging non-nuclear-armed and democratic Iran with sanctions? And how come nuclear-armed and officially declared Pakistan is being deprived of United States military aid but nuclear-armed but undeclared Israel is propped up by the US with billions of dollars in military and economic subsidies?

To understand the US’ foreign policy in the Trump era one must look far beyond America’s usually sophisticated and rigorous geo-political strategising and give a new weight to the factor of presidential personal caprice and self–interest. Capitals and leaderships across the world now give a ridiculously high weightage to President Donald Trump’s personal behaviour and personal interests in assessing the sole superpower’s geo-politics.

Socially crippling

The Islamic Republic of Iran has its own nuclear energy generating capacity but has been certified by the world monitoring bodies as non-nuclear armed and complying with controls preventing development of nuclear armaments. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, however, is nuclear armed and continues to enhance its nuclear arsenal and strengthen its missile delivery capability.

Today, Iran is subject to economically and socially crippling sanctions imposed by Washington which has unilaterally withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Control Pact on the grounds that Tehran is continuing to build its armaments. Iran, like all other states with significant regional clout, is certainly busy strengthening its conventional military. That is perfectly normal behaviour for any rising power, especially a power that has been subject to military aggression (by Iraq under Saddam Hussein) and covert foreign political interference (US-UK propping up the Shah dictatorship).

Biggest armed forces

For example, today Sri Lanka has a military capacity way beyond its economic capacity. In terms of troop numbers in relation to its population (i.e. per capita), Sri Lanka has the biggest armed forces in South Asia or South East Asia. But in the light of the experience of decades of secessionist insurgency and successive rural youth insurgency, no one will disparage Sri Lanka’s current military might.

To understand the logic of current US foreign policy, one has to go beyond conventional political reasoning, thanks to President Trump.

Even Washington’s persistent hostility toward North Korea all these decades since the Korean War - which has not officially ended – can be somewhat rationalised by factoring in the remnants of America’s Cold War anti-communism and its continuing illusion that, as a superpower, it has a right to attempt to dominate distant corners of the globe like north-east Asia.

Second summit

If that is the case, then why is Washington suddenly flirting with the North Korean dictatorship even as America’s own spy agencies – and also the UN – affirm that Pyongyang is continuing with its nuclear build-up? Seemingly inexplicably, the US President is now preparing for a second summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un within a year even without any evidence of concrete follow-up by Pyongyang after that first summit last June.

Last week the White House announced that a second Kim-Trump summit will take place as early as the end of this month. A senior US official just returned from meetings in Pyongyang to make arrangements. The summit meeting is due to be hosted by Vietnam this time round.

In normal inter-state dealings, such complex and long un-resolved issues as those between the US and North Korea (some would say that they are made unresolvable by Washington’s bullishness) would be allowed sufficient time to be taken up before a second summit is convened. But little of what was envisaged by Washington after the Singapore summit has been implemented.

Concretely, North Korean has not conducted either bomb tests or long range missile tests since last June’s meeting. Trump is touting this as a ‘success’ even though Pyongyang announced a moratorium on such tests long before the Singapore summit and, took pains to explain that this was because it had completed all the tests it needed for now.

Thumbing its nose

So, why is there this hurry - instead of giving time for Pyongyang to fulfil its commitments? There is no indication that North Korea is about to re-start its military tests. Neither is there any flagging of Nortn and South Korean bilateral peace-building – a process so bravely pursued by South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

To understand the rush to further cozy up to a dictator who, till recently, was loudly thumbing its nose at the world’s sole superpower, we must understand the tempo of domestic politics In the US.

There is no urgency for Trump to kowtow with Kim other than his own need to revive his domestic popularity after a further decline in his ratings due to his deliberate shut-down of US federal government. That was a desperate tactic to force through funding for his infamous southern ‘border wall’. It failed and Trump only suffered public humiliation.

Trump also wants to distract from public attention building up around the many congressional probes into his presidency and personal dealings now being launched by the opposition Democratic Party controlled House of Representatives. These new probes by congressional oversight committees will see the Democrats using the committee powers to the maximum to get to the truth about Trump on many things. Probes will focus on matters ranging from his income tax returns and personal finance, to financial mis-dealings by his presidential inaugural committee, to possible conspiracy with the Russian government and shady Russian businesspeople.

Distract attention

So the media-savvy and popularity addicted Trump wants to hurriedly set up another sensational summit meeting with the world’s ‘bad boy’, Kim, to distract attention away from his domestic troubles. The potentially gala summit events will also soothe his battered ego.

In any case, the US can afford to flirt with Kim because, despite Washington’s continued Cold War type rhetoric about Korea, North Korea’s armaments are no longer such a serious threat to America’s geo-political interests – certainly not as serious as China’s geo-politics. So the Washington establishment can afford to indulge Trump in his expensive tryst with an exotic dictator.