It’s now more than eight weeks since Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles.
In particular, Cruz had a question for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Referring to the period since the Iran nuclear deal took effect on Jan. 16, Cruz asked: “Has the U.S. intelligence community observed any possible nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea…”?
That’s one of the huge questions looming behind the Iran nuclear deal, officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which President Obama has been urging President-elect Donald Trump to preserve.
It’s a question that deserves an immediate answer. If there has been any such nuclear teamwork between Tehran and rogue, nuclear-testing Pyongyang, that would be a violation by Iran that should immediately blow up the Iran deal — which the Obama White House currently touts on its web site as “The Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon.”
Questions about possible Iran-North Korea teamwork on nuclear weapons are well-founded, as Cruz explained in his seven-page letter, referencing numerous open-source reports (including two of my own). North Korea and Iran have been strategic allies since just after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. They have a long history of weapons deals, in which the usual arrangement has been that North Korea works on the weapons, oil-rich Iran pays the bills, and technicians shuttle between both countries.
While there’s been no official U.S. confirmation that this Iran-North Korea partnership extends to nuclear collaboration, there’s plenty of official U.S. documentation that it includes cooperation on developing ballistic missiles. That has long raised questions about whether the two countries are also in nuclear cahoots, because ballistic missiles are basically cost-efficient only as vehicles for delivering nuclear warheads.
And though it could be mere coincidence, it is striking that during the past year, in which Iran — to multi-billion dollar emolument — has officially relinquished any interest in nuclear weapons, cash-hungry North Korea has never been busier. North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests this year alone, in January and September, bringing its total number of nuclear tests to five since 2006, four of them during Obama’s presidency.
Over many years, North Korea and Iran have both carried out numerous ballistic missile tests, including multiple tests by both countries since the Iran nuclear deal took effect this January. That raises the question of why Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continues to pour resources into testing ballistic missiles. If not for nuclear weapons, then for what? One obvious question is whether North Korea’s nuclear program might be secretly doubling as a nuclear backshop for Iran.