The baby-faced North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un continues threatening his enemies.
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Enemy capitals will be turned “into a sea of fire”; the North Koreans declare. Their nuclear arsenal is “mounted on launch pads aimed at the windpipe of our enemies." To make it clear that an all-out war is about to break out they have advised the personnel of foreign embassies in Pyongyang to leave the country. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a respite from his attempts to promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and travels through Asia with no sign that he has found a real solution to the North Korean crisis.
But it does not look like the Americans are losing any sleep over the possibility that North Korea is going to make good on these threats. And for good reason. It is true that North Korea is more advanced in its nuclear weapon program than Iran. It has already detonated three nuclear devices, and has demonstrated some proficiency in the development of long-range ballistic missiles. It may even have the ability to load a nuclear warhead on one of its missiles. And yet, it is clear that its threats are mostly bluster, doled out in order to lure concessions out of the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea knows all too well that any nuclear adventure would be met by a devastating response, one which would put an end to Kim Jong-un and his claptrap regime.
It's only a small mental leap from the current crisis with nuclear North Korea to a potential future crisis with a nuclear Iran. In this scenario, Iran – after having achieved nuclear weapon capability, an in possession of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles – issues threats against Israel and the U.S. Like the North Koreans are doing now, they pump up the drama by suggesting foreign embassies evacuate Tehran. At this point, war fever will have gripped the U.S. and Israel. In Jerusalem, no one is going to just shrug off the threat. This time, it is not North Korea threatening South Korea and the U.S. in what is more bluster than threat. Iran is not the mouse who roared. It is a real, present danger, and it will be weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a first strike against Israel.
And Israel, mind you, is not South Korea. The threat will be taken seriously, as it should be. And the world will be looking into the face of a nuclear catastrophe.
The ideas of containing a nuclear Iran or establishing a balance of terror with it, as existed in the days of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (ideas which have been floating around for a few years) will evaporate overnight in the face of such a scenario. In Jerusalem and Washington they will begin to think about the unthinkable.
Kim Jong-un’s nuclear saber-rattling may have come just in time. Perhaps it will be the wake-up call, the reminder of what is likely to happen if Iran gets nuclear weapons. It's perfectly clear that Iran is getting closer to that goal. The negotiations with the “5+1” (the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia, plus Germany) drag on endlessly with no results. Who invented this forum of nations, a group with differing interests in Iran, and who deemed them the ones to confront Tehran?
Such an arrangement works great for the Iranians, who for the past few years have been leading the world by the nose by their nuclear project continues merrily along its way. It's clear now that economic sanctions aren't hindering the Iranian race for the bomb. The Iranian nuclear clock keeps ticking. How much time is left before it's too late?