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Tags: india | jcpoa | kim jong un

Time to Challenge Tehran, Pyongyang on Ballistic Missiles

Time to Challenge Tehran, Pyongyang on Ballistic Missiles
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, left, as an unidentified interpreter sat at center, in their meeting in Tehran, Iran, in September of 2014. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 07 September 2017 02:51 PM EDT

Once again, Americans and the world are reading about North Korea’s gambit to intimidate its neighbors. The latest saber-rattling is the possible explosion of a hydrogen bomb, or at minimum, a tritium-enhanced "boosted" atomic bomb. The latter is cold comfort, especially when it is believed that another imminent missile is in the offing. North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un particularly likes to conduct tests when the U.S. is distracted  — as she is likely to be due to Hurricane Irma.

Very troubling is that these events are a reminder of how North Korea is an intelligence black hole. The U.S. intelligence community has consistently underestimated Kim’s missile and nuclear capabilities. We seem to have gotten wrong the pace of ballistic missile development, its sub-launched ballistic missile ability, its warhead miniaturization progress  — and now perhaps its hydrogen bomb development.

The intelligence community has been dependent on overhead imagery (or IMINT) and some signals intelligence (or SIGINT) for its information on North Korea for decades.

Human intelligence (or HUMINT) traditionally the best for divining the intentions of a given leader or government, has always been almost impossible due to the police state that is North Korea.

Kim Jong Un's trusted elite come from the original 50-odd families that returned with The Great Leader Kim Il Sung from Manchuria in 1949; this elite makes for a tight inner-circle and it compounds the current difficulty regarding intelligence gathering. The only country with insight into North Korea's leadership circle is China. They aren’t sharing.

Compounding Western strategic myopia is that IMINT and SIGINT on North Korea are becoming increasingly problematic. Fiberoptic communications have made SIGINT much harder (necessitating direct teltap), and IMINT can be obscured (think underground) or spoofed — much as India, knowing U.S. capabilities, conducted atomic tests in 1998 despite U.S. monitoring.

Kim’s development of mobile, solid-fueled missiles, which require minutes, not hours and or days to fuel — will further limit U.S. launch warning time.

Kim Jong Un's provocative launching of missiles over Japan will strain Japanese, South Korean and U.S. early-warning systems increasing the chances of a fatal miscalculation.

These sobering facts, and the realization that the U.S. is now confronted by only several bad options (there are no good policy alternatives) is due to the willingness of the U.S. and its allies to kick the can down the road for the past 25 years.

Still worse, however, for the American people, is that in addition to the foreign policy laziness heretofore described , the previous administration willfully threw gasoline on the fire with the signing of the disastrous Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. This nihilistic, willful action has undermined counterproliferation efforts and has served to empower (and financially enrich) North Korea.

Americans must understand that the Iran and North Korea missile and nuclear programs are inexorably linked — and cooperation continues, indeed has redoubled — since JCPOA’s signing.

There is a good reason why Iran’s Shahab 3 and 4 missiles are clones of Kim’s Rodong missile series.

The Islamic State’s balistic missile program continues to rely on North Korean technology, as it has for many years. Significantly, Iran continues its test launches because missiles were not included in JCPOA, due to Obama’s haste to sign the "deal."

Iran’s launchings, however, are in violation of its signed U.N. Agreement Limiting Intermediate Range Missiles. Iran of course denies this.

All the while, the redeye direct flight between Tehran and Pyongyang is filled with technicians going both ways.

The mullahs, after all, have what Kim needs most — cash.

Pyongyang’s only foreign-currency-worthy export are weapons. In addition to shared missile development, Iranian nuclear scientists were present at Pyongyang’s first nuclear test, and almost certainly were present at Kim’s latest triumph. Remember, Iran-allied Syria modeled its nuclear plant on a similar North Korean one — before it was destroyed by Israeli bombs

Iran thus doesn't have to risk the ire of the West by overt further development of its nuclear program. Pyongyang is clearly assisting them in this regard — it can be done in North Korea, then brought to the Mideast.

Why has this partnership from hell avoided greater scrutiny? One main cause is money. JCPOA provides the west with the ability to expand trade with the oil-exporter. European and also U.S. firms, eager to expand, only see deals involving jumbo jets and updating oil production infrastructure

In an excellent article, author Avni states that "for decades, America shied away from revealing what the intelligence community knew about the Tehran-Pyongyang love affair because we dreamed of diplomatic breakthroughs on both fronts." This hubris was rewarded by a relationship which has drawn ever closer.

Unfortunately, this dynamic still seems to have a foothold in the Trump Administration, given the National Security Council’s unwillingness to certify Iranian JCPOA non-compliance.

The gasoline on the fire described above was of course the $1.7 billion in cash infamously handed over to Iran on a pallet during  the JCPOA. The White House stated that the cash payment was due to the "effectiveness" of sanctions (no laughs, please). Only a complete fool would believe that a large portion of this money was not sent on to pay for North Korean "assistance."

The JCPOA and Obama’s reprehensible actions thus add truth to Lenin’s old statement that, "the capitalists will compete with each other to sell us the rope with which we will hang them . . . "

As the U.N. talks of increasing sanctions, the Iranian-North Korean link must be highlighted by a U.N. resolution naming and sanctioning persons and entities involved in Iran-North Korea arms cooperation.

Although it may already be too late, drawing further attention to this Tehran-Pyongyang nexus might convince allies in denial that Tehran’s violations constitute a global threat.

Such sanctions could start the process of plugging a major cash source for the Kim regime.

If its too late to prevent North Korea’s joining the nuclear ballistic missile club, there may still be time to stop Iran.

Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The Iranian-North Korean link must be highlighted by a U.N. resolution naming and sanctioning those involved in Iran-North Korea arms. Although it may be too late, drawing further attention to the Tehran-Pyongyang nexus might convince allies in denial that Tehran’s violations are a global threat.
india, jcpoa, kim jong un
Thursday, 07 September 2017 02:51 PM
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