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Iran misreads North Korean precedentThe Iranian regime must be thinking now of North Korea, whose rogue nuclear program went unpunished and indeed benefited it by causing the money laundering sanctions to be lifted. Their reasoning is not exactly correct.

North Korea stopped major money laundering operations years ago, and the US lost nothing by lifting the sanctions. Indeed, cleansing the banking system of Nauru made the sanctions redundant.

Also, North Korea frequently suffers major humanitarian crises which the US cannot ignore, much less aggravate by sanctions.

North Korea has a history of cross-border attacks on a major US ally, South Korea. Striking the communist regime would cause those tensions to flare up. Iran, on the other hand, has launched no wars of aggression in its modern history.

North Korea is insular, while Iran has strong imperial ambitions. The North’s nuclearization sparked a regional arms race, as both Japan and South Korea are certain of their ability to develop nuclear weapons within two to three years and enjoy American protection in the meantime. Iranian nuclearization would throw Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey into a nuclear race, and Oman would follow.

The Western attitude toward a nuclear Iran would most likely resemble its attitude toward Pakistan: years of strong sanctions followed by suspicion and very cold relations. And Iran, which depends on exports for survival and on foreign relations to project its power by naval forces and proxies, can hardly afford such sanctions.

Israel Beitenu’s leader has promised his party that he will leave the government coalition if police carry out the court’s order to destroy the highly contentious outpost of Migron. While strategically irrelevant and politically commendable, his action constitutes a crime—he is effectively blackmailing the government into violating a court order. Since the court already holds the keys to Lieberman’s prosecution on more important charges, however, this new ‘crime’ weights little on his prospects.

Lieberman has also promised to leave the coalition if the government resumes tax transfers to the PA. We will be very much surprised if the cabinet withholds the payments much longer.

Despite his pledge in Riyadh to step down before February’s elections, Yemeni president Saleh has returned to his country. He has already reneged several times on his promises to abandon the office he has held for thirty-three years.

Despite an apparent agreement with the opposition, Yemen is convulsing under terrorist attacks staged by Shiite insurgents, obviously supported by Iran. Whether under Saleh or his VP, the central government is losing control of large areas to Shiites and Al Qaeda.

Instead of strengthening Saleh to destroy the insurgents by whatever means necessary, the US adopted the Saudi plan. The Saudis, however, have a completely different objective in Yemen: carving out a stable mini-state along the Saudi border—and to hell with the rest of the country, which will inevitably fall to terrorists.

November 2011
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