- US – North Korea Summit Off – Not Quite Back to Square One
- Iranian Regime Change – Much harder than the US thinks
US – North Korea Summit Off –
Not Quite Back to Square One
On Thursday, President Trump sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un telling him that the June 12th summit in Singapore was canceled.
Don’t read too much in canceling a summit meeting that deals with nuclear weapons. Reagan canceled a scheduled summit in Iceland and Khrushchev canceled a summit with Eisenhower over the U-2 incident.
Trump’s letter informed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he will not attend their previously planned June 12 meeting in Singapore due to the “open hostility” displayed in the Kim regime’s recent pronouncements.
“Sadly based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, and at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim. “Therefore, please let this letter service to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
The withdrawal comes hours after a North Korean official described Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for repeating the threat, initially made by national-security adviser John Bolton, that Kim would share the fate of deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi if he refused to cooperate with U.S. demands.
“This will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence told Fox News Tuesday, adding that his statement was “more of a fact” than a threat.
The summit cancellation came just hours after the Kim made good on a promise to demolish its sole nuclear-testing site, blowing up tunnels and buildings at the Punggye-ri site in front of journalists from five different countries. This was on top of releasing three Americans a few weeks ago.
However, Trump’s move was a response to an apparent case of cold feet by both sides and Trump in particular who rushed to announce the acceptance of Summit suggestion from Kim of North Korea.
That could be possible. North Korea suddenly interrupted a months-long trend of conciliatory gestures by canceling high-level diplomatic talks with South Korea in response to a long-planned joint military exercise between South Korean and U.S. forces. As the date neared, Pyongyang made clear that it rejected U.S. demands to fully denuclearize before any U.S. aid is given. The White House steadily hedged its estimations of the summit taking place even before the president pulled the plug after the North Korean government made insulting comments about Vice President Mike Pence.
In testimony, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday morning that North Korea also did not respond to multiple attempts to open a dialogue in advance of the now-defunct summit.
Secretary Pompeo explained, “Over the past many days, we have endeavored to do what Chairman Kim and I had agreed, which was to put teams, preparation teams together to begin to work to prepare for the summit and we have received no response to our inquiries from them,” Pompeo said.
Future for Summit Still Good
“It’s possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date,” Trump said. “Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.”
“While many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead, potentially, I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world,” Trump said in a statement before signing a bill rolling back the Dodd-Frank law
The North Korean people are “suffering greatly and needlessly” and Kim must do what is right for his citizens, the president said. In the meantime, he promised that the U.S.’ “maximum pressure campaign” against North Korea, including the “strongest sanctions ever imposed,” will continue.
The response was widely differing depending on political leanings. Some felt that the US had lost a good chance to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula by cancelling the summit. They feel Kim now has all the excuse to up pressure on America and South Korea.
Some said the cancellation was good and a new summit, at a later date, should be avoided. They think North Korea is trying to get too many concessions from Trump before a meeting takes place. They say it was always far-fetched that the North would be willing to give up its nuclear weapons. For Pyongyang, the value of a summit wouldn’t be the opportunity for a good-faith negotiation at the highest levels but the chance to use a superficially successful meeting to unravel the sanctions against it, the way it has in the past.
They fear that this summit cancellation is merely a negotiation tactic by Trump, who has decades of walking away from bad real estate negotiations, only to return to the table when conditions warrant.
But be sure that the US and North Korea will continue to talk. The real problem was the rushed nature of the summit. The lure of an unprecedented first-time meeting between the U.S. president and the North Korean leader meant that there was a short window in which the two sides could resolve key issues before the leaders sat down together.
The reality is that this is just the beginning of a process of true engagement.
Supporters of Trump defended him claiming he was right in postponing the summit in the face of North Korean threats and insults. By going ahead despite escalating demands from Pyongyang, not to mention personal insults, Trump would have seemed too eager for a meeting at any price, making the mistake of previous administrations, which kept negotiating even in the face of North Korean belligerence.
Instead, Trump held open the prospect of a successful meeting, while making clear that the U.S. pressure campaign remained in force.
The door is still clearly open to a future summit. Trump’s letter to Kim made clear his continuing desire to hold the meeting, but only if Kim drops the “unrealistic preconditions”. However, even if Kim does so, the two governments remain far apart on the key issue of denuclearization and aid.
Serious talks should hammer out those details before Trump proposes another meeting, assuming that both sides stops issuing threats and insults. But, Washington doesn’t need to sour relations by talking about a Gaddafi-like fate.
In the meantime, though, the White House will need to guard against further North Korean provocation, including aggressive actions like ICBM tests, which could easily come in the wake of the cancellation. That means working even more closely with South Korea, who will be pushing for the resumption of talks at the earliest moment.
Everyone needs to remember that patience is the keyword to success.
Iranian Regime Change
Much harder than the US thinks
With the Trump Administration’s abrogation of the Iranian nuclear deal, it appears that American policy towards Iran is now focused on regime change.
However, those who think regime change is a realistic policy have probably been watching too many Mission Impossible television reruns. There is virtually little chance that the Iranian regime will change in the near future – especially into something desired by the US.
The Tactics of Regime Change Has Changed
Admittedly, there was an era in the 1950s and 1960s, when governments in South America seemed to change on a regular basis. Even Iran saw a coup over 60 years ago. However, those days are long gone. Modern governments – even those that are very unpopular – are much more coup resistant. One only has to look at Venezuela, which is a very difficult economic situation and some turmoil, but is easily withstanding the buffeting of internal unrest.
One problem with instigating regime change today is modern society. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, political power and communications was centralized in a way to make it easier for a small military group to take control. There was the presidential palace, which was the center of political power and usually one radio station that informed the populace.
Most countries now have several centers of political power like legislatures. A military coup can take the presidential palace, only to find resistance from legislators. One only has to remember that former Russian president Boris Yeltsin made his career standing on a tank outside the Russian legislature during a failed coup.
Modern communications also makes it hard to institute regime change. While modern communications helps Iranian dissidents, these same communications systems allows forces loyal to the Iranian government to quickly react to any situation that threatens the regime.
Iran’s size also makes regime change difficult. Anti government demonstrations in Tehran may even succeed in taking government buildings, but that doesn’t impact the other cities in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard retains power in the other population centers in Iran, any actions in Tehran are bound to fail.
The current Iranian regime also shows no interest in giving up or sharing power – a critical factor in regime change. Iran’s last regime change took place when its leader, the Shah of Iran, was dying of cancer and lacked the resolve to stay in power. The current leadership doesn’t show any lack of will to remain in power, even if it means violently putting down anti-government protests.
The History of Regime Change
The history of regime changes instituted by America is dismal. The failures have outnumbered the successes and have generally caused more problems than they have solved.
Regime change means instability and that means a radical faction can take power. Good examples are the Russian and French revolutions. A desire to change an autocratic government leads to revolutionary governments or to ones that are worse than the government people rioted against.
A more modern example is Libya, which went from a stable dictatorship to an unstable region full of murdering warlords and militias. In fact, Libya is now the breeding ground for the type of terrorists that the West was claiming of trying to eliminate.
Another example of failed regime change was the coup against Gorbchav in the Soviet Union. Conservative Soviet military officers led a coup attempt against Gorbchav, because he was too weak, only to see the whole USSR collapse in a few months. In their eyes, the situation went from bad to disastrous.
The Trump Administration may even want to review the American government’s intervention in Iran during the 1970s. In an attempt to move away from the autocratic Shah, the US saw a pro-West government get overthrown and a revolutionary religion-inspired government come to power.
America is making the mistake of thinking that a sizable sector of population that doesn’t like the current government is all that is needed to effect regime change. That is wrong. If it were so, several current governments like Venezuela would be out of power.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the US government tried regime change in several Communist countries in Eastern Europe. The US sent money and arms to guerrilla units only to see them fail.
Conversely, the Soviet Union tried regime change in nearly every Central and South American country, only to see all of them fail – except Cuba. Even the revolutionary Che Guevara was unable to transplant the Communist revolution to other nations.
Regime change usually requires a spark that is usually random and unpredictable like the storming of the Bastille or the Russian Winter Palace. In the case of America, it was the confrontation between American militias and British troops at the battles of Lexington and Concord.
However, there was no way to predict beforehand that Lexington and Concord would spark the American Revolution. British and American forces had faced off before and there had even been shots fired before. But, no one could predict that this skirmish would lead to an escalation that would have American militias voluntarily heading to Boston to besiege the city with about 10,000 troops by the end of the night.
Real Regime Change
If the US desires real regime change in Iran, it should eschew the traditional tactics that usually lead to failure or a worse government in power.
Maybe they should look for a new strategy.
The most successful regime changes in recent history are those that took place in Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. They went from repressive governments to vibrant democracies in a few years.
Here are some common factors that helped them change for the better.
A NON-HOSTILE ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE COUNTRY. The US didn’t stereotype the eastern countries as evil. Relations with the people of the Eastern European countries were positive and travel to these countries wasn’t discouraged. This allowed the people of the Iron Curtain nations to see the best of America – its people, not its government.
This openness made it clear to the people of the Iron Curtain countries that America wasn’t an enemy, but a friend. As the Soviet Union lost its power, the American institutions of democracy and capitalism were more attractive than communism.
AMERICA WASN’T MILITARLY AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS EASTERN EUROPEAN NATIONS. Although Eastern European nations were part of the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact and NATO forces were deployed on their borders, NATO made it clear that the threat was Russia, not its captive nations.
BETTER ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Although the communist countries of Eastern Europe didn’t have favorable trade agreements with the US, there was trade and a stable trade relationship that wasn’t threatened every week with some new sanction.
By seeing what was offered in the West, Eastern European citizens were able to see the benefits of freedom and capitalism. In the long run, this was what really defeated the USSR.
In the end, it was the slow progress of history that defeated communism in Eastern Europe. The people of Eastern Europe saw the freedoms of the West and stopped actively supporting their governments. There were no major riots or bloody revolutions. Communist governments just died of inertia.
The key to regime change in Iran isn’t funding violent demonstrations in Tehran. It is building relations with the people of Iran and respecting their desire to choose their destiny. The Trump policy toward Iran is doomed to fail.
Bailing Out on a Bad Deal Actually Stabilizes the Chances for Peace
By James Jay Carafano
May 18, 2018
Breaking news: Everything is not all about Trump. The death of the Iran nuclear deal is one of those things. Dumping the deal was more a mercy killing than anything else. Yet many will continue to debate the wrong issue — whether or not we should have stayed in the deal. The real issue is, does Trump know what to do next? The answer, fortunately, appears to be yes. Here’s what we know about the deal. It didn’t make the Iranian regime any better. In fact, Tehran’s foreign policy today is more destabilizing and threatening than the day the deal was signed. The agreement didn’t prevent Iran’s leaders from getting nuclear weapons. They continued all the activities needed to obtain a weapons program, including developing long-range nuclear missiles and improving their nuclear technology. They only thing they haven’t done is produce weapons-grade nuclear material — a step, by the way, they hadn’t take before they signed the deal.
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U.S. Embassy Move Could Have a Positive Impact in the Long Run
By James Phillips
May 17, 2018
The Trump peace plan is unlikely to succeed — not because of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, but because Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist extremist movement that rejects peace with Israel, are locked in on a collision course leading to another war. In short, this is not a post-war environment in which peace is possible. As long as Hamas retains its stranglehold on Gaza and remains committed to terrorism, peace is beyond reach. Hamas not only opposes peace talks with Israel, it also opposes Israel’s very existence. It is dedicated to destroying Israel, as its covenant makes clear. Even if Israel and the Palestinian National Authority signed a perfect peace treaty tomorrow, Hamas could explode it with another round of rockets launched from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians, using increasingly sophisticated missiles provided by Iran. The location of the U.S. Embassy in Israel is a useful pretext for mobilizing Palestinians but not a determining factor in Hamas’ calculations. Hamas staged the riots along the Gaza border as part of its propaganda offensive against Israel related to its “March of Return,” the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel — not because of the U.S. Embassy.
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Iran Sanctions Redux
By William Alan Reinsch
Center for Strategic and International Studies
May 21, 2018
I haven’t written about sanctions in a long time, and since they’re back on the front burner again in the wake of U.S. withdrawal from the Iran agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA), it’s time to take another look at them. Another reason is that times have certainly changed since I first started working on the issue in the late 1970s. My then-boss, the late Senator John Heinz (R-PA), was a sanctions skeptic. He viewed unilateral sanctions as the ultimate lose-lose strategy. Because other nations stepped in to fill the gap caused by our limits on U.S. companies, the United States did not achieve its foreign policy goals, and our companies lost their market share. He was also frustrated by the attitude prevalent among some of his congressional colleagues, who knew very well that legislated sanctions would not be effective (and would, in fact, harm Americans), but nonetheless supported them because, as was often said, “We have to do something.” The response that, “well, you don’t have to do something stupid,” did not go over very well.
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Demanding All and Getting Nothing: Secretary Pompeo’s Speech on Iran
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
May 21, 2018
There is a difference between confrontation and diplomacy. Secretary Pompeo’s explanation of the new Trump strategy in dealing with Iran contains many accurate indictments of the Iranian regime, but it does far more than call for the usual changes to the JCPOA. It effectively rejects the approach used in the JCPOA of focusing on Iran’s nuclear programs and it demands that Iran halt all of the activities the U.S. finds threatening and do so before the U.S. offers any concession on sanctions or other incentives. This may be an initial negotiating position. The Trump Administration may be willing to reconsider a step-by-step approach if Iran offers enough. It may be willing to make some concessions over sanction in dealing with other countries if they will take a more hardline approach in dealing with Iran.
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Trump’s Iran Deal Decision: What Comes Next
By JARRETT BLANC
May 7, 2018
The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal) is a political agreement, not a treaty. It does not have any formal provisions or procedures for withdrawal. A participant in the deal may simply cease complying with its obligations and accept the risk that other participants will do the same. U.S. adherence to the deal is complicated. After Iran fulfilled all its nuclear commitments, the United States modified a number of executive orders, removed a number of entities from sanctions designation lists, issued a number of licenses and policy statements, and waived sanctions under four laws. These waivers need to be renewed every 120 or 180 days. One waiver is due for renewal on May 12—a threat to sanction third countries if they do not reduce purchases of Iranian oil. The U.S. secretary of state formally issues this waiver, but of course the president will make the ultimate decision.
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Scrapping Iran Deal Provides A Trump Card With North Korea
By Ilan Berman
American Foreign Policy Council
May 16, 2018
The political left is aghast over President Donald Trump’s decision last week to abrogate the Iran nuclear deal. Among proponents of the 2015 agreement with Iran’s ayatollahs engineered by the Obama White House, Trump’s pullout was condemned as ill-advised for a host of reasons, not least because it complicates America’s planned negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After all, these critics argue, why would Pyongyang trust a Washington that doesn’t honor its international obligations? That argument, however, is flat wrong. In fact, President Trump’s decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal actually strengthens his bargaining position vis-a-vis Pyongyang, and it increases the pressure on the North Korean regime to make meaningful concessions regarding its strategic arsenal if the two leaders meet next month in Singapore as planned.
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Libya model for North Korea? Trump instead leaning toward nuke disarmament in phases
By Dr. Patrick M. Cronin
Cennter for a New American Security
MAY 23, 2018
The Trump administration is leaning toward a disarmament approach that would force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in phases in return for sanctions relief and other rewards as specific targets are met, analysts say. That move acknowledges the “Libyan model” of requiring a country to dismantle everything up front is unrealistic for North Korea. “All in one would be nice,” Trump said Tuesday, referring to a requirement that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program upfront. “Does it have to be? I don’t think I want to totally commit myself.” Trump said there may be “physical reasons” why an upfront dismantling may not be practical. North Korea has a much larger weapons stockpile than Libya did, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be reluctant to give it up all at once.
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Here’s What Trump Should Do Post-Nuke Deal
By Michael Singh
May 17, 2018
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement was predictable. The road ahead is anything but. The president’s decision to pull out of the nuclear accord was well telegraphed and had its roots both in politics and in policy. Politically, Trump committed himself during the 2016 campaign to scrapping the deal, which he variously described as “insane,” “ridiculous,” and the “worst deal ever.” Yet the decision to withdraw goes beyond politics. The nuclear accord stoked controversy when the Obama administration introduced it in 2015—not merely because of its association with former President Barack Obama. Critics such as myself felt that the deal did too little, for too little time, to restrict Iran’s nuclear activities. We believed that the deal was one-sided, granting Iran broad sanctions relief for its restraint in just one area, albeit a vital one. And we believed there was an alternative: not war, but waiting, for sanctions to bite harder. The allure of reneging on the deal and reinstating sanctions is thus clear. Iran’s economy is already reeling—the Iranian rial has lost significant value, forcing the regime to impose capital controls, and widespread protests over economic conditions and other matters have roiled the country. The Iranian regime appears vulnerable, at just the time that U.S. policymakers are searching for ways to counter its aggression across the Middle East. The Trump administration hopes not just to revive but to increase the pre-nuclear deal pressure on Iran and bring Tehran back to the negotiating table, with the White House’s “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea as a model.
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