Top Iranian officials have stated in the past that Tehran is learning from the experience of North Korea in attempting to actualize aspirations for regional supremacy and gaining the status of a global nuclear power.
Iran has achieved both of these under the cover of an agreement with the superpowers that protects it from both attack and inspection, and allows it to proceed, legitimately and with the help of the superpowers, to develop its nuclear capabilities. These include detonation of a nuclear device "for research purposes" as well as the continued development of its missile program, without any restrictions whatsoever under the agreement.
Iran Follows In North Korea's Footsteps
Like North Korea, which came to several agreements with U.S. administrations, i.e. the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as with other superpowers, yet continued with its military nuclear program without allowing real inspection of its sites, and also continued to develop long-range ballistic missiles, Tehran is utilizing the JCPOA to develop its nuclear capabilities without allowing real inspection, while continuing to develop and freely test long-range missiles.
It was President Obama who pressured the EU3 – the UK, France, and Germany – and the International Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA) to agree to no inspection of military and other suspect sites, and to keep the issue of missiles separate from the JCPOA, thus enabling Iran to do as North Korea has done, without any significant response from the West. Iran, which monitored the West's reaction to North Korea's activity, concluded that it could do the same, and this lesson has been expressed in statements by top Iranian officials.
For example, Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Larijani said in a September 2005 speech: "I recommend once again that you pay attention to the conduct of North Korea. After two years of dealings with North Korea, what have you got? You have accepted North Korea 's nuclear technology in the field of uranium enrichment. So accept ours now."
The Kayhan daily, which is affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote in an October 12, 2006 editorial titled "Lessons from North Korea": " "[North] Korea has built a [nuclear] bomb before the American's eyes, despite the great pressure it was under, and [despite] years of harsh international sanctions – and no one has managed to do anything [against it]. What this means precisely is that if any country, such as North Korea, concludes, for political or security reasons, that it must have nuclear weapons, it will ultimately succeed in implementing its wish – even if the whole world doesn't want it to. The superpowers may manage to slow down [its] path [in going] nuclear, or may apply economic and psychological pressures on it and on its citizens – but in the end the wish that arises from among the people is what prevails and determines the policy."
An article in Sobh-e Sadeq, the weekly of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), published in June 2008, called North Korea's decision to destroy the cooling tower of the reactor at Yongbyon that month "a strategic deception" aimed at alleviating the pressure from the superpowers that oppose its nuclear activity. It added that the destruction of this facility could be a step towards another nuclear test. Also according to the article, the destruction of the tower, the use of which had long been suspended, did not prevent North Korea from being able to revive its activity, thanks to its knowhow, and with its stock of plutonium it could conduct at least another eight nuclear tests.
The Iran Diplomacy research center, which is close to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, called, in April 2009, for careful study of the U.S. reaction to North Korea's launch that month of a long-range missile, saying that the North Korean model could be applied to the Middle East.
The conservative Iranian daily Resalat stated, following the North Korean missile launch, that the U.S. was weak and could not force its position on North Korea, which, it said, benefits from Russian and Chinese support. It added that the Obama administration was facing a difficult dilemma. If it adopted the harsh position of the preceding Bush administration, Obama's conciliatory image would be harmed. If it gave in to North Korea, it would strengthen North Korea's position in southeast Asia.
Iran acted based on North Korea's experience, but with greater sophistication, as manifested in the following aspects:
1. Instead of rejecting inspections out of hand like North Korea, Tehran created a framework under which only declared nuclear sites could be inspected, along with a different framework in which there would be no inspections of military and other sites, and gained full Western cooperation for this, in addition to tremendous benefits for itself. The West agreed to this Iranian scheme, and the President of the United States himself even explained on July 14, 2015, the day this agreement was announced, that "[t]he IAEA will have access where necessary, when necessary." Today, the U.S. is obligated to reconfirm every quarter that Iran is meeting the terms of the agreement even though inspection is limited to certain sites only.
2. Tehran took the issue of long-range ballistic missile development out of the negotiations for the JCPOA, and in the absence of an international treaty regulating the issue of long-term missiles, the Obama administration allowed Iran to continue to develop its missile capability to the point where it threatens the Middle East and the West. It should be noted that Iran calls its long-range missiles "defensive missiles" but that by any accepted standard they are offensive missiles; it also threatens the countries of the region with them.
On missile, in Hebrew and Farsi: Israel Should Be Wiped Off the Face of the Earth." Photo: Fars, Iran, March 9, 2016. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6349, Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: 'Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth,' March 16, 2016.
3. The JCPOA was written in such a way that it expires after a certain time period, as do the restrictions and certain qualifications to which Tehran agreed.
4. The U.S. administration acquiesced to Tehran's demand that its heavy water be stored in nearby Oman, its proxy, where it will be in immediate reach of Iran. The administration also acquiesced to Iran's demand that it be allowed to continue developing advanced-generation centrifuges, such that after the JCPOA expires in 2025 it will be able to skip significant stages in its nuclearization process.
What Inspection Did The EU3 And IAEA Agree To Under Pressure From The Obama Administration?
IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano recently announced that the IAEA could enter any site in Iran to inspect it. But his statements are misleading, because the JCPOA does not allow real inspection of any nuclear site except for those declared by Iran. The following are the terms agreed to in the JCPOA by Amano and the Europeans:
1. The JCPOA created a unique inspection framework for Iran that bypasses the Additional Protocol, which allows inspection of military sites, which Iran accepted as a voluntary and unilateral step, and from which it can drop out without violating the JCPOA.
2. The JCPOA transferred the authority to make clear professional decisions from the IAEA to a political supreme forum whose authority supersedes that of the IAEA – with the agreement of IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, who relinquished his status under pressure from Obama.
3. The JCPOA set out a series of restrictions for conducting inspections; for example, any claim by the IAEA must not be motivated by an intent to damage Iranian military or security activity. This wording hands Iran the tools to prevent any inspection of any security or other site, by arguing that such an inspection is motivated by an intent to damage its military activity. The procedure demands that the information that casts suspicion on any of these sites and that prompts a request for inspection be revealed to Iran, Russia, and China – and this demand, which cannot be met, is aimed at stopping the inspection process in its tracks.
4. The JCPOA created a political precedent for a non-credible inspection process, through closing Iran's PMD (Possible Military Dimensions) file by a predetermined political decision and while negotiating with Iran about writing the IAEA report on the PMD – i.e. the file was not closed independently by the IAEA. That is, IAEA inspectors did not visit the sites, and the samples from these sites were taken by the Iranians themselves and handed over to the IAEA inspectors without any way of ascertaining that the sample taken is what was handed over. IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano submitted to the Obama administration's pressure to agree to this unprofessional and non-credible procedure, violating the trust placed in him and in the IAEA as an independent, professional, and authoritative body. This is because the Iranians made their acceptance of the JCPOA conditional upon the closure of their PMD file in this exact way, so that there could be no entrance to suspect military sites. Additionally, he submitted to Iran's refusal to allow the IAEA to question Iranian nuclear scientists, and agreed not to mention the term "PMD" in the report focusing on this issue, because Iran opposed this. Furthermore, the IAEA report on the PMD issue stated that there was indeed suspect activity in Iran, but refrained from stating that the Iranian regime was responsible for it.
These were also clarified by Iran's representative in the IAEA, Reza Najafi, in a September 21, 2015 interview with the ISNA news agency. He said: "I deny the Reuters report that the samples from Parchin were taken in the presence of IAEA inspectors. We ourselves took the samples. This is the red line for us, and no inspector is authorized to enter a military site and conduct an inspection. The visit of Amano and his deputy was strictly a general protocol visit; they had no equipment, not even a cellphone, their visit did not last more than a few minutes, [and it was] only in order for them to see that there is nothing suspicious and that the claims about [Parchin] were completely wrong."
See also the following MEMRI reports:
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6113, Atomic Energy Organization Of Iran Chief Ali Akbar Salehi: We Have Reached An Understanding With The IAEA On The PMD, Now Political Backing Exists And The Results Will Be Very Positive, July 22, 2017.
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1167, Nuclear Negotiations At An Impasse: Leader Khamenei Rejects Agreement Reached On Token Inspection Of Military Sites And Questioning Of Scientists; U.S. Willing To Close IAEA Dossier On Iranian PMD, To Settle For Inspecting Declared Nuclear Sites Only, And To Rely On Intelligence; EU Objects, June 11, 2015.
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6229, Statements By Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi Indicate: IAEA's PMD Report Is Being Written In Negotiation With Iran, Not Independently, November 26, 2015.
French President Macron: It Is "Absolutely Necessary" That The JCPOA "Be Supplemented... As Far As The Use Of Ballistic Missiles Is Concerned"
French President Emmanuel Macron, in an August 29, 2017 Paris speech to a conference of French ambassadors, spoke of the need to fortify the JCPOA as part of the nonproliferation regime, and proposed "absolutely necessary" supplementation of it "as far as the use of ballistic missiles is concerned" after 2025 when the JCPOA expires. He said: "[T]his agreement [JCPOA] was improved thanks to the intervention of France. There is no alternative to the nonproliferation regime and we will be extremely strict as to its implementation. The framework of this agreement is good. It can be supplemented by some work [on it] after 2025 – an absolutely necessary work as far as the use of ballistic missiles is concerned."
* A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Studies Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.
Appendix: Additional MEMRI Reports On The Subject
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 962, The North Korea Crisis As Iran Sees It, April 30, 2013.
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1321, Iranian Daily Close to Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'If Any Country Such as North Korea, Concludes, for Political or Security Reasons, That It Must Have Nuclear Weapons, It Will Ultimately Succeed... Even if the Whole World Is Opposed...' October 13, 2006.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 994, Iranian Nuclear Chief Ali Larijani: The West Should Learn the Lesson of North Korea, September 26, 2005.
 Kayhan (Iran), October 12, 2006. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1321, Iranian Daily Close to Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'If Any Country Such as North Korea, Concludes, for Political or Security Reasons, That It Must Have Nuclear Weapons, It Will Ultimately Succeed... Even if the Whole World Is Opposed...' October 13, 2006.
 Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), June 30, 2008.
 Iran Diplomacy (Iran), April 6, 2009.
 Resalat (Iran), April 6, 2009.
 Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office, July 14, 2015.
 See Section Q of Annex of the JCPOA, pp 42-43, Apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/full-text-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/1651. See also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1325 - Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations, August 18, 2017.
 ISNA (Iran), September 21, 2015.
 Elysee.fr, August 29, 2017.