Why Iran Deal Fails as a Model For Korea Pact

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No sooner had President Trump shaken hands with Kim Jong Un than President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state started arguing that the ideal template for the Korean talks is — wait for it — the Iran deal.

That’s the brainstorm of Antony Blinken, who ran the State Department under Secretary John Kerry. I have great regard for Blinken, who has been a passing friend for years.

Mr. Blinken is out with an op-ed in The New York Times noting how Trump has called the Iran pact “the worst deal ever.” Mr. Blinken — far from alone in drawing the parallel — reckons that Trump risks being “hoisted on his own hyperbole.”

What strikes me about the situation in Korea, though, is not the similarities in respect of Iran but the differences. They tend to work in favor of Mr. Trump — though no one denies the risks in Korea.

Start with the fact that Mr. Obama’s Iran deal transferred billions of dollars to Iran. It promptly used the lucre to step up its regional trouble-making and its war on Israel, deploying its own forces or proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

President Trump hasn’t sent billions to Korea — yet.

Another big difference between the Iran appeasement and the Korean talks involves our allies. The principal target of Iran’s nuclear program — Israel — objected strongly to the deal, as did our allies in the Sunni Gulf states.

All our regional allies were worried about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but Iran wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth — its leaders say so plainly.

So it was no surprise that from beginning to the end, Israel was waving us off the deal. Prime Minister Netanyahu took his doubts about the Iran appeasement to a joint session of Congress. None of it cut any ice with Mr. Obama.

A “senior Obama administration official” — Mr. Obama himself or a top aide (The Atlantic magazine never said) — called Mr. Netanyahu “chickenshit.” Mr. Netanyahu’s discomfort was met with glee in Mr. Obama’s Washington.

What a difference when it comes to North Korea. There, our enemy’s principal target — free South Korea — is tickled pink (no pun intended) over the parley underway with the North.

That’s because the Korean peninsula has been divided between Communist North and free South since World War II. Millions of Koreans wake up every day yearning for family members they haven’t seen in decades.

Not only does our Korean ally welcome the talks. South Korea’s freely elected president, Moon Jae-in, has already met with Kim Jong-un and served as an intermediary to set up the Trump-Kim summit.

Yet another yuge difference between Korea and the Iran deal is our own Congress. The deal Messrs. Obama and Kerry struck with Iran was opposed in Congress “overwhelmingly,” as the Times put it.

Neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Kerry seemed to give a fig about Congress. They crafted the deal as, in effect, a contract between Mr. Obama and the ayatollahs.

Then they took it to the United Nations. In the Security Council, they voted for the Iran deal against the wishes of America’s own Congress. It’s hard to recall a situation like it.

Korea, though, is decidedly different. There has been no surge of opposition in Congress to the talks Mr. Trump has begun with Korea. There is a lot of caution, but no significant opposition.

Opposition may develop, of course, particularly if Mr. Trump tries to ink a security guarantee with the North Korean camarilla without addressing the human-rights abuses there.

Mr. Obama failed to address human rights with Iran, and after the Obama pact, human rights in Iran got worse. North Korea is different. Human rights can’t get worse than they are. So maybe Mr. Trump will help.

Then, too, there are the confounded Europeans. They were part of the whole process with Iran. No wonder Mr. Kerry had such a problem taking a hard line. With Korea, the Europeans are off sulking.

Finally, there is the difference in our negotiators. Mr. Kerry is distrusted by millions for his testimony against our GIs while they were still in combat in Vietnam. He was the wrong man to treat with Iran.

It’s hard to imagine Mike Pompeo, a West Point graduate, testifying against our GIs. Or to imagine that he would cut with the North Korean reds a deal that the Democrats would want to withdraw from.

This column first appeared in the New York Post.

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