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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Iran’s Response to Trump’s Meeting with Kim Jong-Un

Filed under: Iran, Nuclear Warfare, U.S. Policy

Iran’s Response to Trump’s Meeting with Kim Jong-Un
Another Iranian cartoon (two days before both leaders met)
President Donald J. Trump meets with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, June 12, 2018
President Donald J. Trump meets with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, June 12, 2018 (White House photographer)

Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the spokesman of the Iranian government, warned the leader of North Korea about concluding an agreement with the Trump administration because of the U.S. president’s conduct concerning the Iranian nuclear agreement. He said that Trump “is the same person who on his airplane annulled the U.S. signature on the memorandum of understanding of the heads of G7.” (This was during the most recent G7 summit in Canada, on June 10, 2018.)

On the day before the meeting between Trump and Kim, which took place on June 12, 2018, Bahram Ghassemi, spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, called upon North Korea to be extremely vigilant and “remain on high alert” because Washington, under the presidency of Trump, had become unpredictable. It already dropped out of several agreements, the first of which was the nuclear deal with Iran. Ghassemi added that “Iran can’t be optimistic about the meeting between Kim and the American president….”

Caricature from the Irani Newspaper
Caricature from the Irani Newspaper Aftab, Tehran, June 13, 2018

Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador to the United Kingdom, wrote that the agreement between North Korea and the United States lowered the danger of war breaking out in the Koreas and reduced the tension that could have had a serious effect on South Korea, Japan, and China. However, he stressed that more than the actual meeting, it was important to reach detailed agreements between both countries and bring them into effect. Baeidinejad believed that the memorandum of understandings signed between Trump and Kim was “weaker than the previous obligations of North Korea,” and because Trump “needed this meeting, he was satisfied with a minimum commitment from North Korea. Yet, despite everything, the meeting and the memorandum of understandings reduced the danger of war.”

Ali Khamenei with Kim Yong-Nam
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (R) meets with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, in August 2013. (Leader’s Office)

(It should be noted that Baeidinejad is considered to be Iran’s most important ambassador in the western world and was one of the most senior diplomats involved in the discussions between the powers before the Iran nuclear deal was reached. He expresses the positions of the Rouhani government better than President Hassan Rouhani himself or Foreign Minister Javad Zarif within Iran.)1

Javid Ghorban Oghlia former senior Iranian diplomat who served in the past as an ambassador to several countries, wrote an article for the Iranian press called, “Give Diplomacy a Chance.” It related to the nuclear deal between Iran and the remaining powers that are still signed onto it. It called upon the conservatives in Iran to restrain themselves and not pull the country further down into the abyss. Rather, they should allow Hassan Rouhani’s government to act generously and give it more room to maneuver to save what is left of the agreement before it is too late. (This article was published before the meeting between Trump and Kim.)2

Caricature from Iran’s
Caricature from Iran’s, June 13, 2018:
“A historic meeting.”

Etemaad, a newspaper identified with the Iranian Reformists and also with some of the more moderate and pragmatic conservatives, published an editorial with the headline, “Nothing for nothing.” It expressed surprise that Trump and his team referred to its “comprehensive” nuclear agreement with “unprecedented monitoring systems” with Iran as “one of the worst agreements in history.” Yet, several months of public and secret contacts between Washington and Pyongyang only yielded a weak memorandum of understandings that Trump is trying with all his strength to pass off as a significant victory.

According to Etemaad, “It is clear that both sides have not reached even a final understanding about establishing relations between both countries…. There is no doubt that the United States has deliberately left the important things unclear because it did not manage to dictate its complete will easily to North Korea, and this is because Trump needed the talks to be seen as successful…. One should not dismiss the possibility that the United States is the loser right now vis-à-vis the memorandum of understanding signed in Singapore, and even during further contacts it will continue to be on the losing side even if it seems that the United States will initially fulfill some of the clauses serving U.S. interests. But further along, it will withdraw from the obligations that serve the other side more.”3

The Iran Newspaper (mouthpiece of the official Iranian news agency IRNA) published an editorial called “Trump and Shock Diplomacy.” It stressed that Kim Jong-Un broke the taboo on holding talks at these levels with the United States and surrendered to Trump’s diplomacy, which is shock diplomacy. The newspaper alluded to Kim’s body language, describing him as “showing a lack of confidence during the meeting with Trump, yet nonetheless, he managed to achieve his goals. The United States and North Korea have raised the level from that of a cold war to a cold peace, which requires tangible diplomatic achievements, but if U.S. and UN Security Council sanctions continue against North Korea, not only will the cold war return, but there will also be a chance that it will intensify even more…”4

Iran’s prominent Reformist newspaper Shargh Daily believes that “minimal understandings” were achieved between the United States and North Korea. It added that China, Japan, and South Korea are happy with what the progress, and that the taboo on holding meetings between the U.S. and North Korean leaders has been broken. However, Iran’s nuclear deal, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Saudis are what stand behind the substantial political and economic pressures that the United States is putting upon Iran. Therefore, Trump cannot adopt an independent policy toward Iran in the way that he did with Kim Jong-Un, and he is obliged to take into account the demands of Israel and Saudi Arabia. According to the newspaper, for this reason, Trump’s challenge to achieve an agreement with Iran is much more serious. He will try to put as much pressure as he can upon Iran. However, Shargh Daily added that any agreement considered to be a large, significant agreement must take into account mutual strategic needs and the goals of both sides. At this time, both of these characteristics are missing in the current situation, whereby relations between Iran and the United States are in crisis, particularly after the United States abandoned the nuclear agreement. It continues to impose heavy pressures, also upon Europe so that it will obey America, while Europe itself shows signs of hesitation toward Washington.5

Iranian cartoon
Another Iranian cartoon (two days before both leaders met)

The news website Asr-e Iran praised both Trump and the leader of North Korea. It wrote that in a world where everyone speaks to each other in the language of threats, holding meetings with world leaders shaking hands and smiling at each other is a ray of hope and can encourage the citizens of the world that there is still some hope. According to the site, “It is true to say that you cannot rely on Trump, but in the world of international relations, there’s no need to rely on any leader or country because the arena of international relations is not a place where one country relies upon another. Rather, it is necessary to arrange the platform in such a way that the interests of both sides will require them to respect each other. It is clear that North Korea can’t rely on the United States, and there is no trust between the two of them, but specifically, when there is no trust, it is necessary to hold talks with the objective of breaking the present heavy atmosphere, which will minimize the results of that lack of trust.”6

Cartoon of Fars news agency
Cartoon of Fars news agency, which identifies with the Revolutionary Guard, from June 13, 2018. The headline is “Un dismantles his nuclear weapon.”

The Eranico site published an article by its chief editor on the day of the meeting between Trump and Kim, referring to several differences between Iran and North Korea with regard to talks. He wrote:

  1. Iran has always stressed that it does not aspire toward achieving a nuclear bomb, in contrast with Pyongyang, which did everything it could to complete such an achievement.
  2. The countries in the region are doing everything to ensure that Iran does not profit from the benefits created by the nuclear deal and will not be relieved from the sanctions, while South Korea is sponsoring the talks between its northern neighbor and the United States and is seriously monitoring the success of these talks.
  3. Israel is doing everything to make sure relations between Iran and the rest of the world, and the conditions for Iran, will not return to regular conditions and relations at a time when it displays no sensitivity toward North Korea.
  4. In North Korea, either there are no internal factions to stand against Kim Jong-Un or any that may exist can’t do so, while the Iranian government is dealing with many groups and personalities and people of great means and influence upon the regime. These people and strong organizations have changed the track of the discussions between Iran and the world to discussions between North Korea and the United States. It would not be exaggerating to say that the effort to reach a compromise with these groups within Iran is harder than the actual talks between Tehran and the various powers.
  5. The side that sat down with Iran during the nuclear talks was the team of Barak Obama. When Trump himself sat down opposite Kim, they were two different people, and the various discussions that they had bore no resemblance to the negotiations between Iran and the Obama administration.
  1. At the beginning of the talks with Iran, there was a telephone call of a few minutes between Obama and Hassan Rouhani. (This conversation took place before Rouhani left the United States after attending the UN General Assembly.) He could not continue with these talks or expand them into something else due to his political constraints in Iran, while the leaders of the United States and North Korea sat down together.7

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