What has Kim done to Khamenei?
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his leadership are undergoing a difficult test. Aside from the US government’s threat to restore economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, the collapse of its main nuclear ally, North Korea, must be a catastrophic loss.
It is true that I have not heard, so far, a serious commentator talking optimistically about the historic meeting and reconciliation between the leaders of the two Koreas, nor anyone who believes that this event will bring an end to the war and tension, as announced by the two leaders.
While uncertainty remains, the developments on the Korean Peninsula remain of interest to the Iranian regime. What if North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un truly decided to end the state of war, even though we do not understand to this day why he has changed his policy, if he has really done so?
Let’s assume that what we have heard from him reflects a new policy, and that North Korea has decided to become a peaceful country without nuclear weapons and to reconcile with its sister South Korea. What would happen to Iran? What would happen would be a huge political coup and a great international affair, and its effects would reach distant areas, including our region.
There are two countries in the world that have kept the international community busy and been a threat to peace: North Korea and Iran. With Pyongyang’s withdrawal, Tehran would be alone, and it would be easy to put pressure on it, forcing it to stop its nuclear project and adjust its bad regional behavior. The news alone would weaken Iran and strengthen the United States and its allies.
Perhaps the Iranian leadership will be wise and learn from Kim Jong Un, get rid of its nuclear weapons, abandon its military adventures and become a major civil economic power.
But the problem facing everyone is the intentions of the North Korean leader, which many doubt. In politics, trust and credibility are rare commodities — they are as sought after as precious stones. And since North Korea lied and did not keep to its previous commitments, made in return for lifting the Western economic embargo on it, we may fear a repetition of this play with a more dramatic performance.
Three factors make Kim a liar in the eyes of his opponents. First, he promised last time to stop his nuclear project in exchange for ending the economic blockade, but he failed to do so. Second, since he has succeeded in developing his military capabilities to such a large extent, it is difficult to imagine that he has decided to abandon them. Finally, because he depends on superior technological and military capabilities to maintain his rule, it is hard to believe that he would endanger his position by abandoning these factors.
Many believe that China is behind the change. US President Donald Trump acknowledged that the recent major breakthrough would not have happened without the support of the Chinese leadership. Beijing can give Trump the guarantees he needs, but he knows China is not a reliable guarantor. Therefore, in the absence of information about the justifications of the North Korean bloodless coup, we are still puzzled and skeptical.
We hope that the dream will become reality and that the world will get rid of another danger — the North Korean nuclear power. And perhaps the Iranian leadership will be wise and learn from Kim, get rid of its nuclear weapons, abandon its military adventures and become a major civil economic power in the region, competing with us in education, construction, industry and entertainment.
– Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.