By Mark S. Kirk
Source: Chicago Tribune
his week, the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi will serve as the backdrop for President Donald Trump’s anticipated second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Observers have speculated that the talks will center on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula — which Trump has repeatedly called for since his first visit with Kim.
As the president deals with Kim, he understands that North Korea cannot be viewed in a vacuum. He must also consider the repressive, theocratic regime in Iran — especially in the context of successful actions he has taken against the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, Trump rightly named North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as a feckless trio of rogue regimes that are global agents of destruction, disruption and division. And now, these dictatorships are watching closely the strength United States projects diplomatically. I am hopeful that Trump will use his recent momentum from Venezuela to demonstrate strength and resolve to North Korea and Iran’s regimes.
The Trump administration’s leadership in recognizing Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela was a strong move that has now garnered international support from dozens of countries across the world. The action comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s two-year geopolitical pressure campaign targeting the socialist dictator Maduro’s economic power and sanctioning countless individuals. Coupled with the nearly $100 million for the humanitarian crisis and $20 million in direct aid, this has handcuffed Maduro’s ambitions and will hopefully lead Venezuela out of the “worst human rights crisis in its history.”
Trump’s widely praised efforts in Venezuela will put the United States in a strong position to deal with Iran’s illicit behavior. As of late 2018, it was reported that Venezuela, one of Tehran’s important strategic allies, would be accepting Iranian warships to Venezuelan waters. This development, certain to disturb already tumultuous relations among the United States, Iran and Venezuela, underscores Trump’s remarks that these countries share a dangerous alliance that threatens American security interests. Likewise, it will thwart Iran’s desire to establish a beachhead in Venezuela given Caracas’ relationship with Hezbollah. Venezuela’s former vice president and current minister of industries, Tareck El Aissami, allegedly sought to establish ties between Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to work in Venezuela.
Iran must capitulate and cease all of its nuclear weapon development, its illicit missile program and its global financial support for terrorism. These core demands must be the end objectives of a diplomatic strategy based in strength and resolve targeting the Iranian government. Any action that threatens Iran’s clear and present nuclear ambitions and illicit missile weapons launches will certainly inform Chairman Kim’s strategy as well.
Decades of documentation suggest that North Korea and Iran have worked together to further their military ties and missile technologies — from the comparisons between Iran’s Shahab 3 and North Korea’s Nodong missiles, to Iran’s “$100 million deal with North Korea for nuclear training and know-how and missile technology.” It must be remembered that even though North Korea hasn’t launched a test missile since 2017, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has threatened European countries through test-launching ballistic missiles capable of reaching just under 2,500 miles. Experts believe the ballistic missiles were built from North Korean technology.
With momentum on Trump’s side, now is the time to strike and take a hard line, diplomatically and economically, against the Iranian and North Korean regimes. There is no better opportunity for the Trump administration to govern from a position of strength and sideline Iran’s nuclear dreams by effectively attacking all three rogue regimes through a comprehensive strategy that puts the security interests of the American people first.
A diplomatic strategy that pressures the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran founded on our growing and prosperous economy and demonstrated strength on the world stage will enhance America’s and the world’s security. I hope Trump and his diplomatic team use this opportunity to claim even more victories for peace against the trio of regimes who regularly oppress their people.
Mark S. Kirk, a former U.S. senator from Illinois, is a senior adviser at United Against Nuclear Iran.