Just a year after mobilising the international community against North Korea, Donald Trump is now targeting Iran with a similar campaign of “maximum pressure”.
But if North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has seen his standing with the US president transformed in the 12 months since Trump’s United Nations debut, the prospects of Hassan Rouhani undergoing a similar transformation appear far from clear.
In a speech he made before the UN General Assembly last September, Trump gave an initial airing to his “maximum pressure” philosophy as he railed both against Iran and North Korea.
But Kim, derided a year ago by Trump as “a little rocket man” who was on a “suicide mission” is now being hailed as a “terrific” leader by the US president after their historic summit in Singapore in June. A second get-together could be announced shortly.
One year after mobilising the international community against North Korea, Donald Trump is trying to force another arch enemy to the negotiating table by targeting Iran with a similar campaign of “maximum pressure”.
According to one senior European diplomat, the Trump administration is convinced that its tough talk – allied with a massive programme of sanctions – forced the North Korean leadership to change course, even if doubts remain about how many concrete measures the North has actually taken towards ending its nuclear programme.
The Trump administration therefore plans to “do the same thing with Iran: hit hard and then negotiate from a position of strength”, the diplomat added.
Much to the dismay of Washington’s Western allies, Trump slammed the door in May on a deal that the US and European powers brokered with Iran back in 2015 that allowed for a lifting of sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
With the Iranian economy showing increasing signs of strain, the Trump administration is hoping that Tehran will have no option if it wants to survive and return to the negotiating table.
Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Washington-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies, whose organisation is known for its hardline stance towards the regimes in both Pyongyang and Tehran, said there were clear parallels.
“It’s hard not to mention Iran and North Korea in the same breath when talking about rogue regimes and nuclear non-proliferation,” he told AFP.
“I believe that a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy towards both regimes is wise and warranted, but it will be challenging to conduct,” added Ben Taleblu.
While both regimes have been accused of trying to develop nuclear weapons, Washington’s complaints against Iran are more extensive – encouraged by its Sunni Arab allies who have long been hostile towards the mainly Shiite regime in Tehran.