North Korea has now conducted six nuclear tests, each one more powerful than the one before it. Though the country is only as large as the US state of Virginia, has a gross domestic product per capita equal to about 3% of that of the United States, and its nuclear tests have not succeeded, both its conventional missile arsenal and its non-conventional potential are gravely threatening to the US.
All this, despite North Korea's 1994 assurances to the Clinton administration that it would never seek to acquire nuclear weapons. It has faced no particular negative consequences for breaking its word.
Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School, says the US must review the lesson it failed regarding North Korea and make sure to pass it successfully vis-à-vis Iran.
"The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power," Dershowitz wrote this week for the Gatestone Institute, "is that we MUST stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal… There is nothing more dangerous than a 'suicide regime' armed with nuclear weapons.
"What makes Iran a 'suicide regime?' The late Iranian leader Rafsanjani once acknowledged that an Iranian attack on Israel would lead to the deaths of 15 million Iranians in an Israeli retaliatory strike – and he justified this as a "small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world."
Without mentioning former US President Barack Obama by name, Dershowitz sharply criticizes the agreement he reached with Iran as failing to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear power.
"The deal signed by Iran in 2015 postpones Iran's quest for a nuclear arsenal, but it doesn't prevent it," he writes, "despite the unequivocal statement in the preamble that 'Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.'"
What can be done now?
"Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran's reaffirmation that it will never 'develop or acquire nuclear weapons' is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States… In order to ensure that the entirety of the agreement is carried out, including that reaffirmation, Congress should adopt the proposal made by Thomas L. Friedman on 22 July 2015 and by myself on 5 September 2013, [namely]:
"Congress should pass a resolution authorizing this and future presidents to use force to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons state…"
Dershowitz feels that this might stop Iran's race for a nuclear bomb, as it "would underline the centrality to the deal of Iran's reaffirmation never to acquire nuclear weapons, and would provide both a deterrent against Iran violating its reaffirmation and an enforcement authorization in the event it does."
If such a law is not passed, "the deal as currently interpreted by Iran will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In all probability, it would merely postpone that catastrophe for about a decade while legitimating its occurrence. This is not an outcome we can live with, as evidenced by the crisis we are now confronting with North Korea. So let us learn from our mistake and not repeat it with Iran."