The Fate of Iran’s Nuclear Deal and Its Impact on US-North Korea Denuclearization Talks


H.E. Hassan Taherian, Ambassador, The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Asia Society Korea wrapped up its spring season of luncheons with a talk by the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, H.E. Hassan Taherian. Ambassador Taherian has been serving in South Korea since 2014 and he lectured on “The Fate of Iran’s Nuclear Deal and Its Impact on U.S.-North Korea Denuclearization Talks”. The talk went into detail on the roots of Iran’s nuclear program, the outlook for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the impact of the JCPOA on the U.S.-North Korean negotiations. 
H.E. Taherian opened by explaining that Iran’s nuclear program predates the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and it is only since the Revolution that the West has become opposed to it. He claimed that Western countries were, in fact, intertwined in agreements with Iran prior to the Revolution, but that they went back on their pledges, which caused great economic harm to Iran. Since the role of nuclear science was critical to the Iranian economy and its sustainable development, Iran decided to continue with its peaceful program that has always opposed the use of nuclear technology for weaponry. Following the Revolution, however, the West hindered Iran’s progression through obstacles and discrimination. According to H.E. Taherian, the U.S. and its allies used the media and other outlets to condemn Iran’s nuclear program a security threat. The eventual pressure, he added, from Western countries and the United Nations Security Council resulted in Iran agreeing to sign the JCPOA in 2015. The deal assured that Iran would halt a large amount of its nuclear activities and accept a robust inspection regime in return for the lifting of sanctions.
The ambassador went on to explain that since 2015, Iran has not violated the JCPOA and this is supported by its flawless inspection records. However, the U.S. has decided to withdraw from the deal, and H.E. Taherian believes this demonstrates that the U.S. is unreliable and unpredictable. H.E. Taherian stated that if the JCPOA is to continue, the remaining countries should guarantee to make up for the losses that will be incurred by America’s absence; otherwise, there is no motivation for Iran to stay in the agreement. 
In terms of the impact of the JCPOA on the U.S.-North Korean negotiations, the ambassador claimed that it is still too early and time will tell for determining what terms are put forward by both parties. H.E. Taherian did make a point of noting that the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea are of a totally different nature since Iran’s program has always been peaceful, with no intention to produce a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that Iran welcomes any measures that reduce tensions and increase stability on the Korean peninsula. 
Finally, H.E. Taherian asserted that America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA will impact the negotiations with North Korea because the North will note that America has a history of going back on previous agreements. Thus, North Korea will want assurances that America will not pull out of any agreement it makes and this will add to the complexity of the talks. The ambassador does not anticipate a quick resolution with North Korea as they will have noted America’s previous actions in Iran, Libya, and Iraq. This, he believes, is why the North only promised a gradual process of denuclearization during the summit in Singapore. North Korean leaders, H.E. Taherian believes, are well aware that their power only remains with the possession of a nuclear weapon, and if they give it up, all that was previously agreed to will be meaningless as America will go back on its promises.
Following his talk, H.E. Taherian took a number of questions from those present before wrapping up what was another an excellent luncheon. The Asia Society Korea Luncheon Series will now take a break for the summer before returning again in September for its fall season.