Analysis: North Korea sets example for Iran
Even if North Korea did, in fact, successfully test its first hydrogen bomb on Wednesday, it is unlikely to have the capability to miniaturize it to the extent needed to mount it on a missile for delivery to its target.
Nonetheless, there is little doubt that North Korea’s ability to produce sophisticated nuclear weaponry is growing. And this is bad news, very bad news, not just for its neighbors which are still in a state of war with Pyongyang (the South, Japan and the U.S. that maintains 40,000 troops on South Korean soil). This is also troubling news for China, North Korea’s neighbor and only ally, and for Israel.
On the face of it, the threat is far away. But since the 1970s the North has been supplying our enemies with missiles and rockets, as well as the technology to produce them, that are a constant threat. North Korea, or the technology it provided, is the source of most of the missiles and rockets produced in Iran and Syria and those in the Hezbollah arsenals.
And that’s not all. In 2006-07, the North supplied Syria with a nuclear reactor and a plutonium separation facility.
According to information reaching the West, Iranian experts were present at the second to last nuclear test carried out by North Korea in 2013. They may also have been present at the H-bomb test. It is thus eminently clear that if North Korea already has – or will have within a year or two – the capability of mounting a hydrogen warhead onto a ballistic missile – the technology could find its way to Iran within a short time.
Once international economic sanctions on Iran are lifted in 2016, Iran will have the money to buy such technology from the impoverished Asian state. North Korea is also in dire need of oil – and Iran has plenty.
Although Israel, too, is thought by Western experts to have developed its own hydrogen weapon, the damage of such a powerful device used on Israel would be massive.
The implications for Israel of the North Korean experiment are not limited to technology transfer.
More serious is the fact that North Korea is blatantly dismissive of the international community, and serves as a model for Iran to emulate.
This is how the North has been operating for years: it carries out a nuclear test, then announces that it is willing to divest itself of its nuclear capabilities in return for food supplies, oil and raw materials from the West. When the West, namely the US, Japan and South Korea – provides the ruler with his demands, he goes back to developing his nuclear arsenal, conducts another test, and so on. This occurred in the 90s, in 2006, in 2009 and again in 2013.
This is obvious to the Iranians and is significant given the large camp of conservatives, headed by the country’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, who regards the nuclear deal with the West as something Iran should retract at the earliest
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