[Mb-civic] Two Perfect Storms For Iran and N. Korea - Jim Hoagland
- Washington Post
swiggard at comcast.net
Sun Sep 25 07:22:01 PDT 2005
Two Perfect Storms For Iran and N. Korea
By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, September 25, 2005; Page B07
North Korea and Iran are getting aid from unexpected allies in the
international negotiations over their illicit nuclear weapons programs.
Meet the new superpowers of diplomacy: Katrina and Rita.
A decision by the Bush administration not to press for economic
sanctions against oil-producing Iran was sealed by the destructive force
that the two hurricanes targeted on U.S. refining facilities and the
resulting leap in crude oil and gasoline prices.
"We were already moving toward asking the Security Council to do no more
than put Iran's nuclear program on its agenda for constant review and
prodding," says a senior European official. "The prospect of a call for
sanctions driving oil above $100 a barrel seemed to kill any lingering
enthusiasm in Washington for such a move now."
North Korea also benefits from nature's violent intervention in power
politics. When push came to shove last week in efforts by China to keep
the six-party talks in Beijing alive, a distracted White House, engulfed
in the human, economic and political disasters created by Katrina and
threatened by Rita, had neither the stomach nor the time for new
confrontation in Asia.
That left room for diplomats to reach a slippery "agreement" that
commits the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and
Russia to keep on talking, even if only to argue over what they said at
their last meeting. Buying time is probably the best outcome available
at this point. But the hiatus is not likely to endure.
Don't bother arguing whether North Korea's Kim Jong Il would "keep" the
more binding but theoretical accord that the Chinese outlined and that
Washington and Pyongyang did not reject immediately. He would not.
The North Korean leader uses his nuclear arsenal as a tool of economic
blackmail. He must constantly cheat just enough on his current deal to
ensure future payments. Isolated and somewhat loony, Kim is not
suicidal. That was the news out of Beijing last week.
So the real debate for U.S. foreign policy is not whether the Bush
administration can trust Kim but whether it can trust its four partners
in the talks -- or rather induce them to share the costs of renting Kim
until history bypasses him, or to help enforce a collective program of
punishment if and when he relapses. That is the framework for viewing
the next steps to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions as well.
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