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North Korean Marshal Kim Meets U.S. President Trump for Peace Talks; What Iranian and Libyan Leaders Are Warning Based on their Own Experiences

Part Two

June 14th - 2018

Little over five years after its disarmament was complete, Libya in 2011 came under a large scale U.S. led attack, with armed militias and mercenary forces on the ground armed and supplied by Western powers as U.S. and European fighter jets bombed the country’s infrastructure and military facilities. As a result of disarmament, made with the U.S. Bush administration in exchange for security guarantees which appeared to be null and void, the country was ill placed to defend itself. So trusting had Libya been of its detente with the Western Bloc that NATO pilots had little need to target the country’s large fleet MiG-23 fighters and MiG-25 interceptors on the ground - so sure were they that these aircraft were totally inactive with no trained pilots to operate them. Libya’s air defences were equally meagre, with negligible fortifications, modernisation, or training for surface to air missile crews leaving missile batteries sitting ducks for Western airstrikes. The country’s government was soon after toppled, its leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi tortured and killed by Western armed militias operating under French air support, and Libya as a result remains in a state of civil war until today. Slave markets and human trafficking have reemerged on a large scale, and the country’s living standards have markedly deteriorated.

When interviewed during the war in 2011 Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif Al Islam, a leading political figure and member of his father’s inner circle, spoke of what he retrospectively saw to be the cause of Libya’s downfall, which he referred to as “a good lesson for everybody.” He indicated that despite strong advice from both Iran and North Korea not to give up its nuclear program, Libya had gone ahead to surrender its deterrent. He referred to this as his country’s critical mistake. Speaking of Libya he said: “you give up your weapons of mass destruction, you stop developing long range missiles, you become very friendly with the West and this is the result. So what does this mean, it means this is a message to everybody that you have to be strong. You never trust them, and you have to be always on alert. Otherwise those people (the Western bloc), they don’t have friends. Overnight they change their mind and they start bombing us, and the same thing could happen to any other country… One of our big mistakes was that we delayed buying new weapons, especially from Russia, it was a big mistake. And we delayed building a strong army because we thought that we will not fight again, the Americans, the Europeans are our friends (since forming positive relations in 2003.)”

Other than Libya, another state which has presented a dire warning regarding the potential consequences of placing one’s trust in the Untied States' pledges of peace has been the Islamic Republic of Iran - a longstanding North Korean defence partner. Having previously warned Libya against taking such a course, the Iranian government has addressed a similar warning to the leadership of North Korea. The Islamic Republic notably signed a nuclear agreement with the U.S. under President Obama in 2015, the very President who had reneged on security guarantees given to Libya, limiting Iran's ability to enrich uranium for the production of nuclear arms. Tehran as a result saw sanctions partially lifted by the United States, the United Nations and the Western Bloc as a whole, though this was short lived with American economic pressure swiftly being reapplied under different pretexts. While Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had expressed his mistrust for the U.S. and its Western partners since the negotiations begun, and as a result the country never allowed inspections of its military facilities or surrendered its conventionally armed ballistic missiles despite immense Western pressure to do so, they nevertheless suffered a reneging on the terms of the nuclear deal by the United States. Much like the deal made with Libya, the Iran nuclear deal was cancelled by a subsequent American administration belonging to a different political party.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry stated on June 11th that Iran views the Kim-Trump summit with “great pessimism,” with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif referring to the U.S President as “habitual Deal-Breaker-in-Chief." Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht stated in the aftermath of the summit regarding the reliability of President Trump: "We don't know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that he would not cancel the agreement before returning home." This exaggeration was set to drive a point home to Tehran's longstanding ally, with the spokesman further alluding to the likelihood of a suspequent administration renege on President Trump's promises. One lesson which can at the very least be inferred is that the United States’ Republicans and Democrats cannot be relied on to keep to each other’s deals when administrations change, and while President Trump may well be entirely sincere regarding his intention for peace between the two countries, just as President Bush may have been regarding agreements made with Libya, the coming to power of a new administration could change things entirely - indeed it is likely to.

Should North Korea take steps to compromise its defence in the face of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from its borders and a cancellation of military drills on the peninsula, alongside other security guarantees, there is little to stop a subsequent U.S. administration from restoring pressure and re stoking under a different pretext - with human rights and ‘humanitarian military intervention’ having been a favourite of a number of U.S. administrations in the past. North Korea itself, having witnessed a war termed by a number of U.S. and South Korean analysts as genocide against its people in the 1950s at the hands of the U.S. and its allies, is unlikely to yield major concessions or leave itself vulnerable as Libya did before it. Given the history of caution demonstrated by North Korean statesmen, the warnings of Libya and Iran are likely to be well heeded. 

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