Which is the greater threat, North Korea or Iran?
Juan Cole, who teachers Middle East history at the University of Michigan, made an interesting comparison on his web log.
North Korea has eight nuclear weapons. As Cole noted, its ruler, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, has threatened to attack United States territory. North Korea has 1,106,000 troops under arms, including 85,000 in its Air Force. Its armed forces have 3,500 tanks and 8,500 artillery pieces
Iran has zero nuclear weapons. As Cole pointed out, its ruler, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has stated that Iran will never use nuclear weapons because killing innocent civilians is contrary to Islam. Iran has 585,000 troops under arms, including 30,000 in its Air Force. Its armed forces have 1,613 tanks and 3,500 artillery pieces.
Why, then, does the United States treat North Korea’s government with such forbearance while threatening and waging economic warfare against Iran? Part of the answer is that it is safer to threaten a nation that might someday get nuclear weapons than a country that already has nuclear weapons. But I don’t think this is the main reason. The North Korean government must know that the United States military has the power to obliterate its armed forces.
The main reason that the North Korean government has the power to engage in threats and blackmail is that it is perpetually on the brink of political and economic collapse, and that if that happened, the U.S., Chinese and South Korean governments would be faced with the question of how to deal with 25 million desperate starving people in a state of anarchy. It is easier to tolerate provocations—up to a point—than to deal with that responsibility. I wish I knew a better answer, but I don’t.
Click on If N. Korea Is the Threat, Why Is All the War Talk About a Weak Iran? for Prof. Cole’s post on his Informed Comment web log.