Iran has declared that it will resume nuclear conversion at Esfahan within one or two days. Europe has requested an emergency meeting of the IAEA to pressure Iran not to resume nuclear fuel cycle work. Israel is pressuring Ukraine to demand from Iran the 12 nuclear-capable X-55 cruise missiles that were smuggled there four years ago.
All of this is happening as the talks with North Korea are drawing to a crucial, and so far unpredictable, end.
So is World War III imminent? Hardly.
Over reaction is exactly what these unlikely allies are fishing for. The coincidence of declared threats by both countries is a bit too convenient. By cranking the nuclear threat pressure simultaneously, both North Korea and Iran are hoping to walk away with the most handouts.
Of course the stories are different – North Korea has never denied pursuing WMDs and couldn’t care less about international law, while Iran continues to insist that their enrichment program is for peaceful purposes and consistent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is because North Korea has little to lose from increased sanctions, while Iran has plenty. Still both are standing firm and talking big, finding strength in each other.
The worst thing we can do is get scared and give away the farm. Lets cut through the tough talk and look at the facts. US and Israeli intelligence analysts estimate that Iran is years away from a nuclear weapons capability. North Korea is very likely to be overstating its nuclear capabilities, and will not cease its program no matter what we give them.
What we have today is a crisis in diplomacy. It is impossible to reach a compromise when the intentions of the negotiating parties are mutually exclusive. But despite another failed relationship therapy session, nothing has changed in the capabilities reality.
This time, we must stand firm with the realization that the more we give, the more we fuel the fire.