Reuters: The United States on Tuesday held out as a model for Iran a deal under which North Korea will take steps toward giving up nuclear arms, and analysts said it might bolster Iranians who favor talks with the West. By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday held out as a model for Iran a deal under which North Korea will take steps toward giving up nuclear arms, and analysts said it might bolster Iranians who favor talks with the West.
White House spokesman Tony Snow called the deal a “template,” but some analysts cautioned that the United States would have less leverage with Iran than with impoverished, communist North Korea.
Under an agreement struck in Beijing, Pyongyang will freeze the reactor at the heart of its nuclear program and allow inspections of the site. The pact could bring the impoverished communist state some $300 million in aid.
Unlike Libya’s 2003 decision to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs before getting any tangible U.S. benefits, the North Korea deal is an incremental approach in which Pyongyang is rewarded as it moves toward what the United States hopes will ultimately be a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Proliferation experts said the deal, hammered out in talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, demonstrated the Bush administration’s willingness to abandon some of its hard-line positions and make compromises.
“We see a pattern developing. We negotiated a deal with Libya. Now we are negotiating a deal with North Korea. They give up their weapons programs in exchange for a new relationship with the United States. That model seems a lot preferable to the Iraq model,” said Joseph Cirincione of the Center for American Progress think tank.
“North Korea was a more difficult deal than Libya and Iran will be more difficult still, but the approach is clear,” he added. “A successful deal with North Korea will be a powerful argument in Tehran for those who favor negotiating.”
The United States has offered to talk to Iran about its nuclear programs and any other issues between the two countries — which do not have diplomatic relations — if Tehran suspended its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful power generation, has refused to take up the offer.
Some analysts argued that to give benefits to North Korea, which carried out a nuclear test on October 9, before it fully abandoned its nuclear programs was to reward it for unacceptable behavior.
Heritage Foundation analyst Bruce Klingner said the Beijing agreement would send “a dangerously accommodating signal not only to North Korea, but also to Iran and any other aspiring nuclear weapons state.”
Snow said Pyongyang had come back to the table “because the international community asserted pressure, they felt the pressure and they understood that we were serious.”
“We hope the Iranians are similarly going to return to the table because we have offered some real opportunities for them,” he added.
Analysts said the United States is in a far weaker position in dealing with Iran, which unlike North Korea is a rich state, with deep oil reserves and commercial ties with western European nations who may be loathe to apply more pressure.
The war in neighboring Iraq, which has killed more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers and tied down more than 130,000 U.S. troops, has also limited U.S. military options toward Iran.
“Our hand is not particularly strong, but it might be strong enough to convince the Iranians to accept a temporary suspension on its enrichment programs in order to engage in multinational negotiations and find out what kind of a deal would be on the table,” said said Gary Samore, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.