It is impossible to guess the consequences of the approaching showdown between the US and Iran. But if the events of the past week are any guide, the future does not look promising.
President George W. Bush asserted Wednesday that the deal the State Department achieved with North Korea in the six-party talks "will bring us closer to a Korea Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons." But it is hard to see how this is so.
Reached seven months after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile and four months after it conducted an underground nuclear test, the accord makes no mention of Pyongyang's nuclear or missile arsenals. Indeed all it does is pay North Korea handsomely for a promise that within 60 days it will temporarily seal its nuclear installation at Yongbyon. For this promise, the Americans agreed to supply the North with 50,000 pounds of heavy fuel oil; conduct direct talks with the North Koreans towards the normalization of diplomatic ties; and cancel banking sanctions that have effectively barred the North Koreans from international capital markets.
The last US payoff is the kicker. In 2006 the US Treasury took action against a bank in Macau that was laundering North Korean counterfeit dollars. That action was the first truly effective step the US has taken toward destabilizing Kim Jung Il's Stalinist regime.
Kim understands that the only way he can remain in power is to force the international community to subsidize his tyranny. The only way he can get foreign powers to do that is by using nuclear blackmail. By removing its banking sanctions, the US effectively destroyed its only effective bargaining chip against North Korea and so ensured that Kim's brinkmanship will continue. In light of this, as former US ambassador the UN John Bolton's noted, the message the US sent by acceding to the agreement is that "if you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you will get rewarded."
Aside from capitulating to North Korea, this week the US took an initial step towards accepting Hamas as a legitimate actor. The unity deal between Fatah and Hamas negotiated under the aegis of the supposedly moderate Saudi King Abdullah is a stunning rebuke of US Palestinian policy. By effectively demoting Fatah to the status of junior partner to Hamas, the agreement is a slap on the face to the Bush administration which for the past four years has based its Palestinian policy on its blind faith in Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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