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Comparing Nonproliferation Policy For Iran And North Korea


Talking tough with Iran may be entirely different than talking tough with North Korea, according to an op-ed in Foreign Policy by Mahsa Rouhi. She's a research fellow with the Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Thanks so much for being with us.

MAHSA ROUHI: Thank you. I'm delighted to be with you.

SIMON: And what are the differences between Iran and North Korea when it comes to talking tough and getting to a table?

ROUHI: First is with Iran, there was already a negotiated agreement. And when U.S. withdraws from that, the prospect of renegotiating something new is actually not very likely mainly because if I put it in simple terms, imagine you get a loan on your house. And in a year or so, the bank comes back and says, I'm sorry, we're not happy with - we have a new management that doesn't like the new interest rates and wants to change that. How likely are you to immediately renegotiate with the same bank at a higher interest rate? The second-most important difference I would say is the regional dynamics and the regional players and their role.

In North Korean case, South Korea and China are very actively pursuing sort of facilitating this dialogue between United States and North Korea and have an interest in finding a peaceful solution to negotiate a deal between U.S. and North Korea, whereas in the Iran case, the regional actors, including Israel and Saudi Arabia and I would say the regional rivals, don't have an interest in finding a peaceful solution. And they actually have more of an interest of making sure U.S. remains more engaged in the region. And in that way, that could actually cause conflict rather than help facilitate a grand bargain or a better deal as President Trump, has referred to it, when it comes to Iran's case.

SIMON: What are the odds that the Iranian leadership, after maybe some public demonstrations of disapproval, decides, well, you know, there's still a lot of overwhelming economic reasons for us to stay in this agreement with the European Union?

ROUHI: Well, the problem is there's still not overwhelming economic interests coming in. If European Union can somehow protect its businesses and come up with some mechanisms that could give Iran at least some promises and guarantees that - moving towards the future, there could be some economic benefits. And depending on that, I think if Iran believes - as President Rouhani actually put out a different statements on his Instagram and Twitter - what matters is national interests, economic interests, whether Europeans can guarantee it without U.S. We would be willing to remain compliant to the deal. And the supreme leader actually put out a statement approving that, as well. So all eyes are on Europeans right now.

SIMON: Should the Iranian government be worried about their survival?

ROUHI: I don't think so. Usually, when the crisis like this arises, it actually brings more unity than anything. And I think the more pressure and sort of the more isolation for Iran, it actually strengthens the regime in a way. You know, I don't think that this strategy that some people talk about - and they think that there is a possibility that this could bring about regime change - is at all anything likely. And I think having to deal with a short-term crisis with the hopes that this will bring change - I'm skeptical on that.

SIMON: Mahsa Rouhi, a research fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, thanks so much for being with us.

ROUHI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.