Washington Times: U.S. lacking focus on partnership between Iran and North Korea regimes

Attention must be directed to root problems, not nuclear weapons data points

President Trump’s administration gave great attention to two toxic triangles that this author highlighted, though ignored by the mainstream media. They dubbed the first of these the “Axis of Resistance,” a self-declared malevolence of Iran, Syria and Hamas.

The second underscored by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton was the “Troika of Tyranny” calling out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

These were categories of evil that share duplicity, violence, atrocity, dictatorship and terrorism.

We are now witnessing the debate of U.S.-Iran relations reach another fever pitch about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This has always been a morass that deviates one’s attention from the actual story. As important as Iran’s weapons program’s issue is, it fundamentally misses the more significant point: the Iranian regime itself. The root problem is the Iranian regime. The symptom is their nuclear weapons program.

However, not addressing the root problem leaves in place Iran’s Shiite empire-building in the Middle East, their collaboration and alliance with Syria and Russia, their state sponsorship of terrorism, their atrocities against their own people and their missile program.

Related to the media’s misdirection over the Iranian situation is the relationship between Iran and North Korea. This relationship began with the fall of the shah’s government in 1979, when Iran joined North Korea as an enemy of the United States. In the 1980s, Iran purchased ballistic missiles from North Korea, often facilitated by China.

As North Korean missile technology and nuclear weapons research amplified, so did Iranian missile capability, which evolved from missiles with a range of 300km in the ‘80s to a breakthrough in 1995 when Iran received the Nodong missile with a range of 1,300km, allowing Iran to hit Israel. This relationship was a two-way street as Iran provided North Korea with oil and missile test data.

North Korean and Chinese teams frequently were in Iran to train and test, illustrating this toxic relationship. In 2010, Iran received 19 BM-25 missiles with a range of 2,000 miles (3,218 km), placing NATO countries under threat. North Korea’s ability to use Iran as a testing opportunity enhanced its own ability to develop long-range ballistic missiles.

Thus, Iran and North Korea created a synthesis of production, experimentation, testing, development and deployment that allows both to become a nuclear weapons power with ICBM capabilities ultimately. The vaunted and now resurrected JCPOA did nothing to stop this. This relationship is currently helping both parties develop submarine and cruise missile technology.

The relationship has fostered cooperation and exchange in the realms of intelligence, underground facility production and special operations warfare. Both nations seem incredibly interested in potential EMP strikes against the United States.

Further, this partnership extends to dangerous state and non-state actors such as Syria and Hezbollah. The dark possibilities range the gamut from Iranian and North Korean officers training Syrians arming ballistic missiles with their own chemical weapons to the scenarios where one day Hezbollah has a nuclear device are not as far fetched as wishful thinking would desire.

The nuclear threat looms large as another two-way street developed over centrifuge, enrichment, uranium and plutonium. It is clear that North Korea is facilitating Iran, becoming a nuclear weapons power while the United States and Europe debate an agreement dead before it was created.

One of the easiest paths of deception is to become obsessed with statistics rather than intent. Experts from all sides can have logical debates about when North Korea and Iran will have a deployable ICBM or when a “break-out” on a particular nuclear timeline will occur. These are not relevant for the serious policymaker. We have understood the strategic intent of the North Korean and Iranian regimes for decades.

There is long-standing proof of a toxic partnership directed at the heart of the American people. Future policies need to address the root of the problem, not become sucked into a vortex of never-ending debates about data points leading nowhere.

This piece originally ran on Washington Times on 28 November, 2020.

Newsmax: The Middle East Opening We Need

If there is a redemptive marker in the tangled web of Persian Gulf politics, it may very well be the burning of the Iranian Consulate in the Iraqi city of Najaf last Wednesday.

Prior to this, there had been an attack on the Iranian Consulate in Karbala.

It would be an important enough story illustrating Iraqi frustration with the imperialism of Iran over their country, but what is more interesting is that the majority of protestors are Shiite Iraqis, who one would assume would feel a closer kinship to Iran. This anti-Iranian groundswell, combined with the protests over Iraq’s government corruption and lack of services, offers the window for the United States to retrieve the Iraqi situation from the mess created by the Obama administration.

Regardless of one’s opinion about the Iraq war, the war would have been for naught if the United States continues to allow the dominance of an evil foreign dictatorship controlling a failed domestic regime. The current crisis where the Iraqi people are targeting both offer the United States the opportunity to repair both.

The problem with Iran and its adventurism in Iraq are clear. Iran is seeking a Persian-Shiite empire in the Persian Gulf, and has engaged in a laundry list of policies and behaviors designed to kill Americans and hurt American interests since 1979. It is engaged in a massive campaign to produce its own nuclear weapons; it is engaged in building, modernizing, and developing long-range ballistic missile capabilities; it is the number-one state sponsor of terrorism, with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah; it is the number-one partner or sponsor of other rogue regimes like Syria; it is the number one conduit for the training and arming of Shiite militias in Iran that killed U.S. troops and Iraqis; it has assisted, when it deems its own interests are at stake, both al-Qaida and the Taliban (regardless of theological differences, just as in the case of Hamas); and it continues to be one of the worst human rights violators of its own people.

Protests causing the current tremors in Iraq started from the Firing of Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, a popular Iraqi counter-terrorism leader and former commander of the “Gold Division.” He had a special relationship with the United States and coalition partners, particularly in the fight against ISIS. He was specifically feared by Iran, who has attempted to intimidate Iraq by controlling and supporting numerous Shiite militias throughout the country.

Leaked Iranian intelligence cables indicate that the head of Iran’s powerful Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the most virulent of anti-American actors, has attempted to be the de-facto Viceroy over Iraq. He continuously manipulates Iraqi politics and politicians.

These cables delineated how Iran exploited the vacuum created by the Obama administration’s pull out of Iraq and President Obama’s disinterest in ensuring Iraqi security and independence.

Iran, reeling from its own protests, has overplayed its hand in the Persian Gulf, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. They have created a window of vulnerability that the United States should not hesitate to act upon. The ultimate goal of American foreign policy in Iraq has been a stable, democratic, and independent nation that could not only be a bulwark against Iranian expansionism but also be a showcase to the Arab world, countering both extremism and partnering with the United States.

In 2008, President Bush said it best concerning our future policy toward Iran, and it now clearly applies to Iraq. “We must stand with the good and decent people of Iran and Syria, who deserve so much better than the life they have today.” American foreign policy should strike multiple blows against the tyranny and aggression that the Iranian government fosters over the entire region and its own people.

This piece was first published at Newsmax on Wednesday, 4 December 2019.