June 7, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7513

In Advance Of U.S.-North Korea Summit, Arab Journalists Wonder: Will U.S., South Korea Reconciliation With North Korea Be A Model For Dealing With Iran?

June 7, 2018
Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 7513

After 65 years of enmity between North and South Korea and of severe North Korea-U.S. tension, both conflicts appear to be moving towards resolution. At the historic April 27, 2018 summit between North Korean President Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the two leaders agreed to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and to pursue talks with the U.S. to declare an official end to the Korean War.[1] Another historic summit, between Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, is set for June 12, 2018.

Against the backdrop of these developments, articles in the Arab press compared the U.S.-North Korea tension to the tension between the U.S./Arab countries and Iran, and asked whether and how the developments in the first situation might impact the second. They went on to discuss whether Iran might learn from the case of North Korea, abandon terrorism, and divest itself of nuclear weapons.

Other articles in the Arab press expressed the hope that the North Korea-South Korea reconciliation might prompt the Arabs to stop fighting with each other and with Iran, and halt their arms race.

The following are translated excerpts from the abovementioned articles:

Arab Journalists: Will North Korea Developments Impact Iran?

Senior Saudi Journalist: The Case Of North Korea Will Make It Easier To Pressure Iran To Stop Its Nuclear Program

Senior Saudi journalist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, who is also a former editor of the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of the Al-Arabiya website, argued that if North Korea is no longer one of the countries that threaten world peace, Iran will remain alone, and will be more easily pressured to change its behavior in the region. He wrote:

"What will happen if the President of North [Korea] really decides to end the state of war? Although to this day I don't understand why he has changed his policy... Let's assume that what we have heard from him truly expresses a new policy, and that North Korea has really decided to become a peace-seeking, nuclear-free nation and to reconcile with its sister South Korea. What [then] will happen to Iran?

"What is taking place is a tremendous political revolution and a stupendous international event, with far-reaching ramifications that will also impact our region. This is because there are two countries in the world that have disturbed the international community and that threaten peace – North Korea and Iran.

"Pyongyang's withdrawal [from this equation] will leave Tehran isolated – and therefore it will be more easily pressured and forced into halting its nuclear program and change its evil ways in the area. The reports [about North Korea's change in policy] alone will cause Iran to weaken and the U.S. and its allies to become stronger...

"I hope that the Iranian leadership will learn from [North Korean leader Kim] Jong-un, lay down its nuclear weapons, abandon its military adventures, and become a great civil economic power in the region, rivalling us in education, construction, industry, and entertainment."[2]

Saudi Daily: "With A Bit Of Optimism," The North Korean Miracle May Influence "The Turbaned Gang In Tehran"

In its May 2, 2018 editorial, the Saudi Al-Yawm daily wrote that both North Korea and Iran had for decades invested in WMDs, suppression and dictatorship at home, and had refused to abide by international regulations, but that now, in light of the breakthrough vis-à-vis North Korea, Iran may also change direction. The editorial stated:

"In modern history, there are two models of extremist radicalism and intransigence: North Korea and the republic of the turbans in Tehran. What they have in common is that both are based on an ideology of domination... What the North Korean regime has done for nearly 70 years – that is, boasting about its extreme dictatorship, its internal repression, its spending of 70% of its people's resources on nuclear testing and WMDs, its weapons smuggling, its damage to the security of its neighbors in the region, its evasion of all international or moral obligations to refrain from interfering in the affairs of others, and its insistence on remaining a constant focus of tension – [are all] exactly what the republic of the turbans in Tehran has been doing since it was established. This is because, [Iran's] perception of exporting its Islamic revolution is based on sectarian [military] branches and militias that fan enmity and hostility and destabilize the region, not to mention its nuclear program that arouses both concern and controversy.

"Both these regimes have based themselves on a policy of 'death to America' so as to arouse primitive emotions, and have employed ideological hostility towards their neighbors and towards the world. [These are part of] their delusion that they are superpowers, while the only thing they have done well is create rivals and enemies, at home and abroad. They have forgotten that the world today is completely different [from what it was in the past]; that neither the turbans nor the heads with the most bizarre haircuts excel in the art of building a state and creating stability and security. And if there is a miracle in this dramatic breakthrough in [North] Korea... can a similar breakthrough be expected in other regions in the world – including in connection with Iran's activity as a rogue state?

"With a bit of optimism, this may happen – but only when the turbaned gang in Tehran realizes that it must choose: Either it continues with its hostility and intransigence, its funding of terrorism, and its arming of its sectarian military militias and branches, or it accepts the current logic and adapts itself to its rules that are typified by peaceful means..."[3]

North Korean President Kim Jong-un solves the nuclear problem, while Iran continues to struggle with it (Source: Al-Bayan, UAE, April 29, 2018)

Saudi Researcher: The Collapse of the North Korea Model Is An Example For Iran

Saudi writer Abdallah bin Bjad Al-'Otaibi, who writes on political and cultural matters and also researches Islamic movements and trends, stated that Iran is inspired by the North Korean model and that both the global developments vis-à-vis North Korea and the increased pressure and tightening of the noose around Iran will force it to change its ways. He wrote:

"In our region, the Iranian regime is inspired by the North Korean model, seeing it as an example and paradigm... The collapse of this model will require Iran to build its own private model [taking into account] all the great variables of U.S. President Trump's policy of struggle against Iran... Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region joined [the struggle against Iran] even earlier, not only with regard to the nuclear issue and the 5+1 agreement [i.e. the JCPOA] but also in all things concerning Iran's destructive terrorist policy, from its ballistic missiles to its support for establishing chaos by means of the militias and terror organizations [that it supports] and its interference in the affairs of the Arab countries...

"If the toppling of the North Korea model is an absolute success – and it is not finished yet – we are facing a new era in world history... The one most harmed by it will be the Iranian regime."[4]

In another article published several days after President Trump's May 8 announcement that the U.S. was withdrawing from the JCPOA, Al-'Otaibi wrote: "In a most important and influential historical move, U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to drop out of the Iran nuclear agreement, after he conclusively proved that the U.S. is the strongest country in the world and knows human history; [he also announced] that he will meet with the North Korean president...

"The Iranian expansion that characterized the previous era was a strategic mistake, to which the countries of the region and of the world turned a blind eye. In order for the world to be rid of this expanding terrorist madness, the balance of power must be restored to its proper order...

"If [the move] in which North Korean abandons its previous arrogance and its evil is completed, it will constitute a model that can be adopted vis-à-vis Iran. This will bring the errant countries back [to the straight path] and force them to honor the international laws, the sovereignty of [other] states, and international peace and security. In his speech [announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA], Trump hinted at the example of North Korea, and so Iran must realize that this is its [only] future way out, and that it is best for it to follow the path [taken by North Korea]." [5]

Bahraini Writer: Iran Insists On Controlling The Countries Of The Region, And Will Not Follow In North Korea's Footsteps

In contrast to the writers who expressed cautious optimism that the case of North Korea would lead to developments regarding Iran, Bahraini writer Abd Al-Mun'im Ibrahim wrote in the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij, under the headline "Iran Is More Dangerous to the World than North Korea," that Iran would not give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles because of its insistence on expanding its influence and control in the region. He wrote:

"Can it be that Iran, following the North Korea model, will sign a new agreement with the West, particularly with the U.S., undertaking not to possess nuclear weapons – especially in light of the fact that North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has taken technical steps to dismantle [his country's] nuclear test site, as a positive step before his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore[?]...

"I do not think that this is possible, for many reasons – perhaps the most important of which is that Iran has armed militias and armies outside its geographic borders, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and it thinks that having nuclear weapons will reinforce its position against removing its political and military influence in several Arab countries. [In contrast], North Korea has no military forces or armed militias outside its geographic borders...

"Why does Iran insist that it needs nuclear weapons and needs to develop ballistic missiles? Because it wants to expand and spread and control the neighboring Arab countries, in order for its regional influence to expand beyond the waters of the Arab Gulf and on to the Mediterranean Basin. It boasts of controlling the political decision-making in Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana'a, and Doha, and seeks to expand its political influence [even] to North Africa.

"Accordingly, it is inconceivable that Iran will do as North Korea does, because it was already given an opportunity [to do so] in the JCPOA that it signed with the U.S. and the West in 2015, but after the nuclear agreement, it took the billions of dollars [it received thanks to the agreement] and spent it on its militias in Arab countries, and took over Sana'a using the Houthis! If this be the case, Iran is more dangerous to the world than North Korea."[6]

Arab Writers: The Arabs Should Learn From The North Korea-South Korea Reconciliation And Make Peace With Iran

As noted, articles reflecting a different view of events were also published in the Arab press; they called on the Arabs to work to end the conflict with Iran and develop a dialogue with it similar to the dialogue between the two Koreas.

Saudi Writer: We Should Stop Wasting Resources On Wars, Arms Race, And Fanning The Flames Of Hatred, And Reconcile With Iran

In the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, Saudi journalist Abd Al-Aziz Al-Samari expressed hope that the Arabs would stop waging wars with Iran. He wrote:

"North Korean President Kim Jong-un has shown that the path to stability and to ridding himself of the [foreign] threat [to his country] begins with reconciling with his neighbor, friend, and historic sister South Korea. This is because foreign intervention increases when brothers fight each other... The historic moment when the leaders [of the two Koreas met] was a magical solution for stopping the foreign elements' greed for the resources and land of both Koreas. Following a 60-year schism, they realized that they share a fate, whatever differences they may have in belief, ideology, and origin...

"This historic moment between the two leaders underlined the same ugly picture of the declared dispute between the Arab East and Iran, and the race for foreign interference and sectarian armament fed by the dark sentiments of hatred and suppressed enmity...

"For some strange reason, the source of authority of sectarian hatred in Iran [i.e. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] thinks that the majority of Muslims are responsible for the death of [Shi'a founder] Al-Hussein [bin Ali] at [the 680 CE Battle of] Karbala,[7] and they must pay for this with blood and endless wars so that justice is done. What is happening is more like a terrifying tragedy of dark wars waged by the Satans of evil. Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have all been murdered in the name of vengeance for the death of Al-Hussein bin Ali 14 centuries ago, and wars continue to burn the region in a dangerous arms race and additional massive blood[shed], in the name of [this] so-called blood feud...

"Neither religion nor sectarian hostility are the source of the chronic conflict in the Korean [peninsula] – rather, [the source is] accursed politics and [the conflict of] tyranny versus freedom... But the crisis of the Muslims is that [their] history, with all its details and its wars, and has become a religion of extremist hatred towards the other, and it is saturated with resentment and loathing towards the brother who is different.

"Perhaps there will be a day when wisdom comes... and we will finally stop passing down the deceit, the accusing others of ignorance, and the hatred from generation to generation, and we will discover, much too late, after such great destruction, how stupid and pathetic we were to squander the resources of our homelands on acquiring weapons, fanning the flames of hatred, igniting unimportant wars, and conspiring against our [Muslim] brothers...

"In conclusion, a nation cannot awaken or stabilize if it is based on feelings of resentment, hatred, and loathing."[8]

The historic Korean reconciliation, and the historic Arab fighting (Source: Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, April 29, 2018.

Jordanian Columnist: The Arabs Must Learn From The Korean Experience And Reconcile With Iran

Tayil Al-Dammam, columnist for the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai, expressed his hope that the Korean leaders' summit would lead to reconciliation among the various Arab countries and also to an end of the conflict between them and Iran, by means of dialogue. He wrote:

"The Korean summit that took place on Friday [April 27] between the leaders of the two opposing countries, North and South, is a great spark of hope for the end of the conflict... The Korean conflict and the American intervention [in it] are somewhat similar to the tense situation between the Arab Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which is a source of threat and justifies [the Saudi expenditure of] billions of dollars annually in arms deals with the U.S.... Therefore, the continued tension greatly benefits the U.S. market and the revival of its economy, in accordance with the approach of President [Trump] who calculates international relations in dollar terms...

"I hope that this experience that emerged vis-à-vis the deep political abyss [separating] the two hostile Korean leaders will have ramifications for our Arab region, and that we will witness reconciliations in the region among the Arab Gulf states, an end to the enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a halt to the squandering of Arab money in arms deals at the expense of development. [But] an end to the conflict between Iran [and its Arab neighbors] will work only if it is done via reciprocal reconciliation and development of dialogue among them, and this is because their geographical proximity will never change, and because in the shadow of the emergence of regional and global alliances and economic blocs, our Arab region must learn its lessons. Here, the dialogue must include the settling of all the issues in the region – from [the issue of] ending the Iranian presence in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and respecting the sovereignty of the Arab countries to [the issue of] drawing up a comprehensive agreement that will protect everyone's rights..."[9]


[1], April 27, 2018.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 30, 2018.

[3] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), May 2, 2018.

[4] Al-Ittihad (UAE), April 30, 2018.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 13, 2018.

[6] Akhbar Al-Khalij (UAE), May 15, 2018.

[7] Hussein bin Ali, the son of Ali bin Abi Taleb and the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatima, considered the founder of the Shi'a, was killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE. Today, the anniversary of his death is marked by Ashura ceremonies, in which believers beat themselves bloody.

[8] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 30, 2018.

[9] Al-Rai (Jordan), April 29, 2018.

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