Why would Kim Jong-un trust Trump now he’s ripped up Iran’s nuclear deal?

Pushing Tehran into Beijing’s embrace seems like another example of the Donald “Making China Great Again”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. Photo: AP

An isolated “rogue regime” with a horrendous human rights record destabilises the region, supports terrorism and embarks on a dangerous nuclear programme. The world community bands together to impose crippling economic sanctions. The regime finally relents and agrees to halt its nuclear ambitions in exchange for foreign investment, trade and recognition.If that sounds like the ideal scenario for corralling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, it is.And if you are looking for a successful template somewhere in the world, yes, there is one: Iran, which in 2015 agreed to suspend its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. The Iran nuclear agreement could have provided the road map for the US to strike a deal to end the conflict on the Korean peninsula, just before Donald Trump is set to meet Kim Jong-un in the first ever face-to-face summit between the leaders of America and North Korea The trouble is that Trump, making good on a campaign pledge, just ripped up the road map, and now he’s driving blind, in the dark and seemingly without a compass, over the objections of America’s European allies as well as Russia and China. He has tossed out the only working model for what a North Korea deal might look like. At the most basic level, Trump first wanted to abrogate the Iran deal because it was the top foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, and this president has shown, if nothing else, that he is determined to uproot and dismantle all things associated with Barack Obama. From health care to environmental regulations to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, if Obama backed it, it has to be bad. Thus, the Iran deal was not just flawed; it was “horrible”, “rotten” and “the worst deal in history”. Second, the hawks who have now seized control of the American foreign policy establishment, backed by Israel’s pro-war Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long hated the Iran deal because it mandated only a 10- to 15-year moratorium on Iran’s nuclear research and uranium enrichment. According to this view, Iran was only biding its time and rebuilding its economy while waiting patiently before it achieves a nuclear breakout in the next decade. Others, mostly on the conservative right, condemned the deal because it only dealt with Iran’s nuclear programme, ignoring questions about Tehran’s support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, its ballistic missiles, its meddling in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, and its near-pathological hostility toward Israel and the West (with “death to America” a refrain at every Iranian rally). And finally, pro-war fringe figures such as John Bolton, the new national security adviser who has rarely seen a country he didn’t want to bomb, have one ultimate goal in mind – regime change. In this dystopian, Boltonesque world view, any deal with Iran is a bad deal because America’s long-term endgame should be toppling the mullahs by force; spare the talks and start revving up the B-52s.