Tuesday, July 11, 2006

North Korea in the Eyes of Iran

"nuclear iran"--As the U.S. tries to unite a divided international community around its its strategy over North Korea, Iran finds itself in an unusual position in the nuclear proliferation diplomacy wars -- as spectator.

It's probably no surprise that North Korea's July 4 missile test made front page news in the Islamic republic.

Though the biggest missile failed, Pyonyang's salvo impressed the Iranian online media as a demonstration of the limits of U.S. power. Pro-government and anti-government news sites alike see North Korea's provocation as a plus for the Iranian government, which is in the midst of preparing a response to the Bush administration's offer to negotiate over the establishment of international controls of Iran's nuclear program.

The Iran News in Tehran wonders if North Korea was imitating Iran by taking a "resolute" stand.

"The thinking in Pyongyang may be that Iran got a better deal on its nuclear proram from the West by standing resolute and the North should try its luck by forcing the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia and China to give Pyongyang more incentives," say the editors.

The news site, which made news recently for its open criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's economic policies, says the United Nations has a limited appetite for punitive actions against North Korea.

"It remains doubtful the Security Council could reach a consensus on sanctions (let alone military action) against Pyongyang anytime soon. The fact is that diplomacy remains the only game in town."

Defying the United States, they conclude, may "actually help the six-party talks and eventually bring the reclusive Pyongyang leadership back to the table."

Bush policy toward North Korea, said the conservative Mehr News, "has only given rise to an intensification of animosity and talk of an arms race in Northeast Asia, encouraging Japan to make moves to revise its pacifist constitution, to the alarm of its neighbors, who still have bitter memories of World War II."

Professor Kim Yeon-Chul of Korea University's Asiatic Research Centre told the Tehran news and culture site that "North Korea's nuclear and missile capability has been ever growing under the Bush administration. This raises questions about the moralistic approach in diplomacy by Washington."

"Extremism begets extremism," says Mehr News. "This is not an acceptable policy for dealing with regional and international issues.

The Iran News, another pro-government site, took care last week to distinguish Iran from North Korea and with the suggestion that U.S. efforts to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council are unwarranted.

"Iran is neither Iraq under Saddam Hussein nor North Korea under Kim Il Song and Kim Jung Il. Iran is a very important geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic power regionally and internationally. Iranians do not deserve the humiliation associated with referral to the UN Security Council and being branded as a pariah within the international community."

But an editorial in E'temad, one of the few reformist publications still allowed to publish, implied the strategies of Pyonyang and Tehran are not all that different.

North Korea is diverting attention from its internal difficulties to "foreign enemies," said the editors.

The government has "has obstructed protests and the peaceful transition [of power]" while seeking to "rally the people behind them and instill pride in them."

The North Koreans, they say, seek to identify "foreign contention and stone-throwing by the West" as "the causes of the country's internal problems."

That sounds like what many Iranian dissidents say about the Tehran government: that it uses the nuclear issue to distract attention from its failure to deliver economic growth.

Not surprisingly, E'temad-e Melli's solution for the North Korean crisis closely mirrors the solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse favored by many Iranian reformists.

"Interaction with the West and reaching some guarantees in return for a two-sided deal will not only lift the heavy burden of unnecessary expenses from the shoulders of the government, but will also put bread on the people's tables," the editors said.
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk


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