Decertifying Iran Will Harm NK Talks – Experts

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Sep 28, 2:03 PM |

By Peter Schechter

The following press release was distributed to media via wire today.

“Decertifying Tehran Shifts US Further from Dialogue with North Korea,” Experts Warn

Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis and New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos discuss linkages between two crucial engagements on foreign policy show

Two experts on North Korea issued a double warning to the Trump administration linking Iran and North Korea.  First, they argue the dangers of decertifying Iran because this could push North Korea permanently away from the bargaining table.  Second, Iran could become the next major proliferation risk if the Trump administration fails to uphold the 2015 Joint Action Plan.

Speaking in an exclusive interview on Altamar, a new foreign affairs podcast, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis of Middlebury Institute of International Studies says that if the Iran deal were to fall through, “I think the North Koreans will feel pretty vindicated in picking a bomb over a piece of paper.”

On October 15, the Trump administration will have to decide or not to whether to certify Iran’s compliance under the P5+1 deal, which has been the subject of much criticism from the president.  However if Iran sees Washington mishandle North Korea, there is the possibility it could strengthen Iranian hardliners, argues Lewis.

“I worry that the combination of walking away from the Iran deal and threatening the North Koreans with hollow threats…is going to give a heck of an argument to the people in Tehran who want a bomb,” said Lewis during his interview with Altamar hosts, Peter Schechter and Muni Jensen.

This risk is echoed by another exclusive Altamar guest, New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos, who was one of the last American correspondents to report from Pyongyang. Although the escalation with North Korea must be taken seriously, Osnos argues that there are still opportunities for successful diplomacy.

“Even though [the North Koreans] are incredibly bellicose in their rhetoric, fundamentally, they recognize that this would be a suicide mission, that to attack the US would really mean the end of North Korea. And they’re not suicidal.” Osnos comments during his Altamar interview.  “On both sides there is a latent desire for some form of diplomatic contact. You hear it in the language of the Trump administration in their quieter moments. And on the North Korean side, fundamentally, that’s what they’ve always wanted.”

However dialogue may be easier said than done, especially with so many conflicting messages. President Trump, in his bellicose rhetoric, appears to be gearing his message not toward the North Koreans, but to his base, which is tremendously dangerous, comments Altamar host Peter Schechter.  “Screaming insults from Washington or Pyongyang is not going to resolve the conflict.  That’s why we wanted the steely rationalism of people who know the issues and know our adversaries on the show.  These experts go beyond the screaming headlines,” said Schechter.

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About the Hosts

Peter Schechter works in both politics and policy. He served as the Atlantic Council’s senior vice president for strategic initiatives and previously co-founded a premier strategic communications company, working as a political campaign advisor in more than 20 countries.  Muni Jensen is a former Colombian diplomat, columnist, and television political commentator.