The history of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions goes back decades, and its relationship with Iran has been in place for almost as long. In fact, Iran and North Korea have been working together for over thirty-five years. During that time, Iran has been supporting Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs, both financially and technologically. Although this is a claim that Iran repeatedly denies, its assertions of innocence have come to mean very little. The proof lies in what has been visible for years.
Iran-North Korea collaboration became increasingly evident in 2006, when the presence of North Korean scientists was detected in Iran. And in North Korea, Iranian scientists, as well as IRGC officials, were seen in launch site photographs, while reports of their involvement in nuclear activities have been leaking out of the Hermit Kingdom for a long time. There is no doubt, in fact, that the two countries have been exchanging ballistic missiles, components, and technology for many years.
DPRK ratified the first Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985, but it withdrew in 2003. And five years after the United Nations imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in 2006, North Korea openly declared its nuclear ambitions to China.
But it was in 2012 that the relationship between North Korea and Iran became one with far more serious and threatening implications. In September 2, 2012, Iran and North Korea signed a scientific and technological co-operation agreement. This came during a period when UN insistence on inspections of Iran’s key nuclear sites and Iran’s consistent refusal to allow them, were followed by a series of United Nations sanctions against Iran. The sanctions threw the country into the worst economic recession in many years.
Nevertheless, on September 2, 2012, Iran entered into a scientific and technology cooperation agreement with North Korea that would lay the groundwork for further investment in North Korea, the establishment of joint scientific and technological laboratories, and the exchange of scientific teams between Teheran and Pyongyang.
By the end of the year, in December 2012, Iran began an airlift of some of its nuclear projects to North Korea to participate in joint nuclear and missile development efforts. Among the projects were the miniaturization of nuclear warheads to fit on the slender missiles employed by both countries, and the development of a plutonium bomb. In North Korea, Iran could continue its nuclear development far from the prying eyes of UN inspectors, and North Korean scientists could benefit from Iranian technology as they enhanced the nuclear and missile development programs of both countries.
In January 2014, I published a report on this dangerous collaboration, based on secret intelligence from the region:
“Iran began moving its bomb manufacturing operations from Iran to North Korea in December 2012. Two facilities near Nyongbyon in North Pyongan province, some 50 miles north of Pyongyang, have become a new center for Iran’s nuclear arms program.
“Over the last year, Iran has been secretly supplying raw materials to the reactor at Nyongbyon for the production of plutonium. At a second facility, located about fifteen miles north and with a code name that translates to ‘Thunder God Mountain’, nuclear warheads are being assembled and integrated with MIRV platforms. MIRVs (Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles) are offensive ballistic missile systems that can support multiple warheads, each of which can be aimed at an independent target, but are all launched by a single booster rocket. Approximately 250-300 Iranian scientists are now reported to be in North Korea, along with a small cadre of IRGC personnel to provide for their security.”
Today, the partnership has resulted in the creation of the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that appears to have a range of 8,100 miles. Due to the laxness of the American government during the Obama years, the collaboration between Iran and North Korea has been able to flourish and create a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the US.
Iran’s New Revolution
As a result of the international sanctions and the systematic corruption of Iran’s government, the people of Iran are suffering under a terrible financial crisis that has led to staggering unemployment and soaring prices for food and staple goods. Iranians have taken to the streets by the thousands in cities throughout Iran, calling for the fall of the Khamenei and his religious government.
The current uprising in Iran is only days old, and it is too early to tell whether it will be the game changer that seems possible. Reports that this popular uprising caught the Iranian government by surprise are probably true, but the larger question now is how quickly the Ayatollah’s forces can recover.
Without strong support from the U.S., the uprising is likely to fail, as it did in 2009. But Donald Trump is clearly not cut from the same cloth as Barack Obama, who stood idly by while the Green Revolution was ruthlessly put down by the Khamenei regime. As of this writing, President Trump has not made his full intentions clear. He has, however, made his opinion extremely clear when he tweeted, “Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad.”
Now the President must stand behind the Iranian people, taking on the vicious government against which they are demonstrating. But he must work fast, before the regime finds its legs and begins to show the ruthless force that destroyed the Green Revolution in 2009. If he lives up to his promise, help is already on the way.
Should this uprising succeed in toppling the religious government of Iran, it will spell the end to a lethal threat that encompasses the entire Middle East. It could also spell the end of the global threat from North Korea, which will lose its strategic partner and funder. At the very best, it will escort the world into a new era in which two of the most ambitiously brutal foes of freedom are gone.
Ilana’s latest book, Hamas, CAIR, and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Plot to Destroy America” was just released by the Center for Security Policy and is available on Amazon.